After conducting an evaluation of the 10-year work plan of PT RAPP, a subsidiary of APRIL, Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry took the decision to annul this work plan (Oct 4), owing in part to the new expansion of acacia plantation blocks in the company’s concessions, most notably in their estates located in the Kampar Peninsula landscape and on Pulau Padang, in Sumatra’s Riau province.
It turns out that this new expansion of acacia plantation blocks in the Kampar Peninsula landscape, encompassing an area greater than a thousand football fields, involves peat domes included in the peat restoration indicative map recently released by Indonesia’s Peat Restoration Agency.
When this information came to light, the ministry immediately annulled the company’s 10-year work plan as the new expansion of acacia plantation blocks, which would compromise vast swathes of peatlands, was included in this year’s annual work plan. This means that peat clearance, peat drainage and canal development would take place this year in the Kampar Peninsula landscape.
Ironically, at COP21 Paris last December, APRIL announced that it would invest USD 100 million to boost peat restoration efforts in the Kampar Peninsula landscape. However, flying in the face of this commitment, serious violations were found in the APRIL subsidiary’s 10-year work plan, dated 22 February 2016, which outlined the company’s intention to expand its new acacia plantation blocks in the Kampar Peninsula landscape, leading the ministry to annull the work plan.
As previously reported by foresthints.news (Sep 27), the Director General of Sustainable Production Forest Management at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, Putera Parthama, said that if legal inconsistencies in the PT RAPP work plan were found, his ministry would have no hesitation in cancelling it.
As it turns out, the ministry has indeed annulled the work plan due to deviations in its legal substance, regardless of APRIL’s claim that the company work plan was in accordance with procedures, as reported by foresthints.news (Sep 27).
With the annulment of the work plan, the ministry has instructed the APRIL subsidiary to revert to its old work plan and, in doing so, comply with the complete prohibition on peat clearance as prescribed in a circular letter issued by the Environment and Forestry Minister, Siti Nurbaya, in early November last year.
In fact, the new expansion of acacia plantation blocks involving peatlands is not only in contravention of the policy of President Joko Widodo and the ministerial circular letter, but also in contradiction to the APRIL group’s own sustainability policy.
“This serves as a big lesson for APRIL’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC). It’s actually them that should have uncovered these violations perpetrated by the APRIL subsidiary. But how can they be expected to discover these violations if the APRIL company’s work plan is not subject to consultation or shared with the WWF and Greenpeace as members of APRIL’s SAC,” lamented Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia, when speaking to foresthints.news on Monday (Oct 10).
The annulment of the work plan, in Vanda’s opinion, gives APRIL’s SAC the opportunity to request that APRIL no longer allocate forested peatland blocks, especially those found in the Pulau Padang Estate, for acacia development blocks.
Furthermore, she continued, APRIL’s SAC must also ask that APRIL restore peatland areas in the Kampar Peninsula lanscape earmarked for the new expansion of acacia plantation blocks in the now cancelled work plan, so that these areas can once again act as buffer zones of the Zamrud National Park.
Vanda added that, bearing in mind that the peatland areas concerned form part of the peat restoration indicative map, APRIL’s SAC must go even further by demanding that APRIL play an active role in restoring the peatlands, most of which are peat domes.
President Joko Widodo has repeatedly declared his political commitment to protecting the country’s peatlands, stating that these areas may no longer be exploited, whether for forestry or plantation business expansion.
The President has reiterated his determination in this regard on many occasions. As such, it is somewhat strange that a business work plan in the forestry and plantation sector would still involve the very exploitation of peatlands for the purposes of business expansion that the President has sought to eliminate.