April 6, 2018

Photos portray latest situation in Sungai Putri landscape

JAKARTA ( - In an expanse of peat forest predominantly situated in the Sungai Putri landscape spread across West Kalimantan’s Ketapang regency lies the huge PT MPK logging concession, which occupies an area equivalent to 37,000 soccer fields - more than half the size of Jakarta - and plays host to the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan.

The prevention of the clearing of the logging concession’s peat forests, and the reason why these forests remain relatively intact, is thanks to a newly-revised government regulation signed by President Joko Widodo which, among other things, bans any new peat development which invariably causes peat drainage.

In April last year, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya imposed a strict sanction on PT MPK, prohibiting any operations linked to the clearing of peat forests, after having conducted a ground-based investigation a month earlier into peat violations committed by the logging company.

At the time this news report was posted, this administrative sanction had yet to be lifted by the minister, meaning that the company’s peat forest clearing operations have not resumed. This also pertains to the construction of new canals in the concession which was granted a permit in June 2008.

To find out about the current situation on the ground, the team performed a field-based observation (Apr 3) in the MPK logging concession. All the photos presented in this news report were taken during this observation and highlight the present circumstances in the concession.

Operational office under construction

Even though PT MPK’s logging operations have been legally terminated by the ministry, the company is still in the process of building an operational office located in the concession, as clearly seen in the following photos taken from various vantage points.

If this operational office is being built with the objective of resuming PT MPK’s operations, this means - according to the company’s work plan - that significant parts of the concession’s relatively intact existing forests are going to be cleared and drained, only to be subsequently replaced with jabon plantations (Anthocephalus cadamba Miq).

Preparations towards the development of jabon plantations are evident from the infrastructure already put in place and other related operations, as shown in the following photos. 

Given that the sanction handed down by Minister Siti Nurbaya on the logging company, freezing its operations, has yet to be lifted, there remains some hope that its operations will not recommence any time soon. However, the situation in the concession requires maximum scrutiny.

Real threat to Bornean orangutan peat forests

In the event that the PT MPK concession’s operations do resume - and this is perhaps just a matter of time - new canal development, currently shut down as shown in the photos below, is likely to take place on a colossal scale.

Such a situation would represent a serious and immediate threat to the rare Bornean orangutans inhabiting the logging concession’s peat forests.  

A failure to prevent the resumption of PT MPK’s harmful peat clearing operations is tantamount to simply allowing these hugely important peat forests, depicted in the following photos, to be lost.

Information obtained by from authorized ministry officials (Apr 5) reveals that a ground-based inspection was recently made, this time checking physically at numerous locations the extent to which the company has fulfilled the legal requirements stipulated in the sanction issued in April last year. The findings of this inspection are still under review.

Considering that PT MPK was hit with a sanction for peat violations it had perpetrated, in this case the construction of new canals, it goes without saying that if this sanction were to be lifted, the company would not be permitted to carry out any further peat violations at all.

This is backed up by the legal basis used by Indonesian forestry authorities when they imposed the sanction on PT MPK, which explicitly states that the company’s operations may in no way whatsoever involve the clearing and draining of the precious peat forests widely scattered within the logging concession