Norwegian embassy implicitly confirms Cargill concession lies in peatlands

(foresthints.news) - At the end of August this year, the Norwegian embassy, through its official website, stated that the submission of large-scale and detailed peat maps, produced from LiDAR mapping, to the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry by the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) represented an important milestone.

The use of the term ‘detailed peat maps’ implies that all the areas covered by the peat agency's LiDAR mapping - whose financing is supported by the Norwegian government - are indeed composed of peat.

Given that the Cargill palm oil concession, located in South Sumatra's Banyuasin regency, was subject to the LiDAR mapping, the statement from the Norwegian embassy would seem to confirm that this concession also consists of peat.

Legally, the ministry differentiates between peat and a peat ecosystem, meaning that the map it released is “peat ecosystem maps”, rather than “peat maps”.

The following photos - taken by the ministry - depict Cargill's recently-developed palm oil plantations which, in line with (the logic of) the Norwegian embassy's official statement, include peat. The Cargill concession is legally included in the ministry’s peat ecosystem map.

If the Norwegian embassy objects to being mentioned as effectively confirming that the Cargill concession does indeed comprise peat, then it should remove the statement from its website regarding ‘detailed peat maps’ generated by the peat agency's LiDAR mapping.

No clear response from peat agency

To ascertain the size of the peatlands in the Cargill concession based on the peat agency’s LiDAR mapping, foresthints.news contacted Peat Agency Chief Nazir Foead (Nov 8). 

This inquiry pertained to the Norwegian embassy’s statement about the ‘detailed peat maps’ derived from LiDAR mapping and also sought to confirm that the term ‘detailed peat maps’ would never have been used if the mapping was not looking at peatlands, including in the Cargill concession.

However, by the deadline given, foresthints.news had yet to receive a response from Nazir about how many hectares of peatlands lie in the Cargill concession. Instead, he only said that the results of the peat agency's LiDAR mapping are still under discussion and cannot yet be shared with outside parties.

Below are photos of Cargill’s new plantations which, according to the Norwegian embassy, form part of the detailed peat maps produced by the peat agency’s LiDAR mapping.

Peat Agency Chief Nazir, in his statement on the Norwegian embassy’s official website, declares that LiDAR mapping “allows us to present this break-through in our work to accelerate the work on peat restoration. 

He also uses the term ‘peat maps’ in this statement with regard to the maps derived from the LiDAR mapping. This means then that the Cargill palm oil concession really does consist of peat.

In light of this, the statements from the Norwegian embassy and the peat agency are sure to have serious consequences for Cargill.

First and foremost, the statements suggest that the new plantation development undertaken by Cargill since the ban on new peat development was imposed by the Environment and Forestry Minister (on Nov 5, 2015) constitutes a peat violation. Also, it means that Cargill has violated its own no peat exploitation policy declared in mid-September 2014.

Cargill reacts

Even though the Norwegian embassy, on its website, still uses the term ‘detailed peat maps’ to refer to the maps produced from the peat agency’s LiDAR mapping, Cargill continues to deny that its palm oil concession is situated in peatlands.

In its latest response on the issue (Nov 8), Cargill insists that it has not carried out any new peat development. The US company even asserts that a due diligence process has been performed on all its new plantings to ensure that no new palm oil plantation development takes place on peat.

This new response from Cargill contradicts the implied statements from the Norwegian embassy and peat agency.