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Palm Oil: The Other Kind of Oil Spill

News Watch, National Geographic 

A worker carries a palm oil sapling onto a cleared area to be planted in the coming days, after purpose lit fires go out in Tripa's peat forest, 13 June 2012, Aceh province, Sumatra, Indonesia. According to a field team from the coalition of NGO's to protect Tripa, that visited the area. Fires are continuing to be lit in the highly threatened Tripa Peat Forest despite assurances from the Indonesian central government that ‘triple track’ legal action was underway and a small area of the Peat Forest had returned to the moratorium map central to the multibillion agreement between Indonesia and Norway to reduce carbon emission from burning the carbon dense Peat Forests. Photo: Paul Hilton/SOCP/YEL (HANDOUT PHOTO, EDITORIAL USE ONLY)

A worker carries a palm oil sapling onto a cleared area to be planted in the coming days, after purpose lit fires go out in Tripa’s peat forest, 13 June 2012, Aceh province, Sumatra, Indonesia. According to a field team from the coalition of NGO’s to protect Tripa, that visited the area. Fires are continuing to be lit in the highly threatened Tripa Peat Forest despite assurances from the Indonesian central government that ‘triple track’ legal action was underway and a small area of the Peat Forest had returned to the moratorium map central to the multibillion agreement between Indonesia and Norway to reduce carbon emission from burning the carbon dense Peat Forests. Photo: Paul Hilton/SOCP/YEL (HANDOUT PHOTO, EDITORIAL USE ONLY)

By Elissa Sursara

Max laid hidden beneath the charred remains of a palm oil tree. He was frightened, injured, and falling in and out of consciousness.

I clicked my tongue and inched closer, hoping to soothe him. He eyed me curiously, hugging tightly to the branches. All around, the Tanjung Puting National Park burned, accidentally set alight by plantation workers who had cleared the surrounding land to harvest the palm oil plant. Separated from his family, Max had fallen casualty to the plantation fire, sustaining burns to his face and body.

In a swift move, I threw Max onto my back and raced toward the rescue team a few hundred meters away. As the smoke filled my lungs and hit my face, I felt Max’ grip become loose and his body become limp. Eventually his breathing stopped, and he died.

Like thousands of orangutans before him, Max was the victim of a different kind of oil spill: the trade in palm oil.

Palm oil monoculture is palming off orangutans in record numbers. Today, less than 70,000 orangutans exist in small wild pockets in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Populations are patchy and both species of orangutan are considered endangered, with conversion of land for palm oil plantation believed to be the species’ biggest threat.

Today, the controversial palm oil process is again at the forefront of environmental news, with Greenpeace staging international protests against a multinational consumer goods company for allegedly using palm oil tied to a supplier with links to tropical forest destruction.

Found in some 75 percent of everyday products, palm oil (sometimes known as vegetable oil) is the edible oil derived from the fleshy middle layer of the fruit of the oil palm. It acts as a cooking agent and is a popular household ingredient. As of 2010, it was the most widely used edible oil in the world, holding approximately 32 percent of the world’s oil market. Palm oil is found in McDonalds, Cadbury chocolates, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, KFC and KFC packaging, Dove and Avon personal care products, Herbal Essence shampoo, Clinique cosmetics, Tim Tams, Kit-Kats and Malteasers, Ritz crackers, Colgate and Palmolive toothpaste, Mars Incorporated chocolates and in Mary Kay, Covergirl, Lancome, Sephora, and Urban Decay cosmetics.

Scientists predict the average consumer uses at least one palm oil product per day.

Approximately 66 percent of Indonesia’s palm oil plantations and 87 percent of Malaysia’s plantations involve some form of documented forest conversion, displacing orangutans and disorienting their ability to find food and seek shelter. Since plantations are often close to villages, lost orangutans sometimes encroach on human settlement. The results are often deadly.

In 2010, animal rights group International Animal Rescue recorded “unspeakable cruelty” toward orangutans in Peniraman, remote Borneo, after a female orangutan and her baby wandered nearby a plantation in search of food. Angry workers allegedly hurled stones and waved sticks at the mother before binding the pair with rope and forcing their heads under the water. The mother later died.

To resolve the palm oil problem, environmental organizations have proposed sustainable palm oil process like a “no deforestation” policy suggested by Greenpeace. The initiatives seek to effectively reduce the pressure on endangered orangutans and their habitats, inherently safeguarding their populations.

WWF has pointed out: “other big palm oil consumers such as Unilever, Ferrero, L’Oreal, Delhaize, Kellog and the world’s biggest palm oil trader, Wilmar International, have all committed to no deforestation.”

Consumer support is also important in the protection of orangutans from harmful palm oil operations, WWF said, which can be facilitated by “palming off” unsustainable palm oil product.

PRESS RELEASE : Aceh NGOs call on the European Union to urgently mediate as conflict escalates over Aceh Parliament’s illegal land use plan

PRESS RELEASE – Aceh Forest Coalition

13/03/2014 – For immediate distribution

Illegal forest destruction to make way for palm oil expansion inside the Leuser Ecosystem, Aceh: The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where tigers, rhinos, elephants and orang-utans all found living together in the wild and is currently being threatened by an illegal land use by-law being driven by the Aceh Provincial Parliament despite being protected by national law.  Credit: Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA)

Illegal forest destruction to make way for palm oil expansion inside the Leuser Ecosystem, Aceh: The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where tigers, rhinos, elephants and orang-utans all found living together in the wild and is currently being threatened by an illegal land use by-law being driven by the Aceh Provincial Parliament despite being protected by national law.
Credit: Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA)

Aceh NGOs call on the European Union to urgently mediate as conflict escalates over Aceh Parliament’s illegal land use plan

[JAKARTA] Deputy Chairman of the Aceh Parliament, Muhammad Tanwir Mahdi, has announced to local media that Aceh Parliament rejected the Ministry of Domestic Affairs’ official evaluation of the Aceh spatial plan by-law (Qanun RTRWA) 2014-2034.

The content of the Aceh spatial plan is highly controversial, and various sources have denounced it as legally invalid. “There are many unanswered legal issues that still surround the issuance of this spatial plan by-law”, Kurniawan, SH, LLM. a legal expert from the University of Syiah Kuala of Banda Aceh, told a full press conference in Jakarta today. “The content of the proposed spatial planning law fails to recognize higher regulations, in particular ‘The Law on Governing Aceh’ (UU 11/2006) and the National Spatial Planning Law, both of which mandate the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem. The current spatial plan is technically invalid and must be revised to have any credibility”,  Kurniawan, concluded.

“We welcome the evaluation that has been conducted by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs and are disappointed that Aceh Parliament has rejected this opportunity to improve the content of the law”, said Walhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) Chairman, Muhammad Nur. “In Aceh we suffer environmental and social problems because of the illegal land clearing from logging and palm oil that is already pushing our protected forests. The Aceh Parliament must recognize the environmental sensitivities of Aceh. Opening the protected forests causes flooding and landslides that create devastation for our people, which will only escalate with poor land use planning. We need a legally compliant spatial plan that includes the protection function of the Leuser Ecosystem. DPRA has failed to do this, and for this reason Walhi Aceh will be pushing a judicial review of the spatial plan on behalf of the community and environment of Aceh”.

“Aceh has been very fortunate to have the support of the world for many years” Said Farwiza, Chairperson of Forest Nature and Environment Aceh. “From 1992 to 2004 Aceh Government worked together with the EU on environmental and social development. We cannot forget the generosity of the world after we suffered the great losses of the 2004 tsunami, for this, I, as an Acehnese woman, will be forever grateful to the people of the world. There was a bitter 30 year civil conflict which ended with the MoU Helsinki, thanks to international facilitation. Aceh made great gains to rebuild thanks to a strong commitment to working together with the central government and international community, however, but now many in Aceh feel as if we have been forgotten, all of the gains we made together are now at risk if we can not urgently work together to find a solution to the rising social and environmental conflict that is now taking place.“

…end

For further information please contact:

Kurniawan, SH, LLM

Legal Academic, University of Syiah Kuala of Banda Aceh

085370903661

kurniawanfh@yahoo.com

Muhammad Nur

Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) Aceh Chairman,

08126970494

mnur.walhiaceh@gmail.com

Aceh Lawmakers Reject Clarification of Interior Ministry

BANDA ACEH – Aceh Provincial Lawmakers and Government agreed to reject the evaluation result of the Interior Ministry on the Aceh’s Law (Qanun) on Spatial Plan 2014-2034.

Deputy Chairman of the Aceh Parliament, Muhammad Tanwir Mahdi, explained that the rejection was not related to the content of the law, but because delay of the evaluation by the Ministry.

He stated that the law has been submitted to the Interior Minister on December 30, 2013. But the evaluation result was only received on February 20, 2014, although it was scheduled for January 15, 2014.

“It was over the evaluation period and now is in the clarification period,” said Tanwir to Serambi on Sunday (8/3).

Since the result arrived late, the team member consisting of Aceh Lawmakers and Government considered the Central Government for indiscipline. “The Central Government must be on time and discipline. If the evaluation period is 15 days, then once the law is received, they need to evaluate immediately”, he added.

Within the evaluation letter of the Law on Spatial Plan of Aceh, 8 general points in general and 27 detail points of evaluation was included. “We have received all those evaluation result from the Interior Minister, we will not change the content of the law and we just returned it back to the Minister for clarification,” said Tanwir.

If the reply on clarification elapses the 15 days period, the Aceh Provincial Law on Spatial Plan 2014-2034 passed at the end of 2013 will be included in the Provincial Gazette.  “Once it is in the Provincial Gazettem the law is valid to be applied,” concluded Tanwir.

In precedent-setting case, palm oil company fined $30M for destroying orangutan forest

In precedent-setting case, palm oil company fined $30M for destroying orangutan forest

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
January 09, 2014

In a precedent-setting case, an Indonesian court has found a palm oil company guilty of violating environmental laws and ordered it to pay $30 million in fines and reparations for clearing an area of protected peat forest that is a stronghold for endangered orangutans in Indonesia’s Aceh Province.

In a ruling handed down Wednesday, the Meulaboh district court concluded that PT Kallista Alam illegally cleared and burned forest within the the protected Tripa peat swamp in northwestern Sumatra. Senior Judge Rahmawati SH ordered the company to pay 114.3 billion rupiah ($9.4 million) in compensation and 251.7 billion rupiah ($20.6 million) to restore damaged areas.

The case was seen as a test of Indonesia’s appetite for enforcing a nationwide moratorium on new plantation and logging concessions across millions of hectares of rainforests and peatlands. Kallista Alam’s activities were particularly brazen, appearing to violate the moratorium, an earlier presidential decree on conversion of deep peat areas, and the sanctity of a high conservation value area known for its orangutan population. Kallista Alam also moved forward with forest clearing without securing proper permits or sign-off from some nearby communities.

Given the circumstances, the clearing sparked international outrage with more than 1.5 million people signing various online petitions calling for greater protection of Aceh’s forests, including opposing a proposal to remove large blocks of tiger and orangutan habitat from protection. Eventually, campaigns by environmental groups pushed the senior officials in the central government and the Ministry of the Environment to call for investigations, bolstering the legal proceedings.

With the ruling, environmental campaigners now hope that the Indonesian government will step up efforts to protect forests, especially in the Leuser Ecosystem, of which Tripa is a part.

“This is a clear message to companies working in Aceh who think they can destroy protected forests and get away with it,” said Muhammad Nur, Chairman of WALHI Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), which helped lead the campaign against Kallista Alam.

“The Judge’s decision in this case clearly illustrates a move towards improved law enforcement against environmental offenders in the region,” added Kamaruddin, a lawyer for communities in the Tripa area.

Although Kallista Alam is expected the appeal the decision, the company still faces additional civil and criminal cases. According to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, four other palm oil companies operating in Tripa run the risk of prosecution.

“Each faces the possibility of serious financial consequences as a result of their illegal clearance, burning and drainage of Tripa’s unique peat swamp ecosystem,” said the group in a statement. “Some of the company Directors and senior management also face the prospect of prison terms in cases against them for their actions on the ground.”

While the developments in Aceh are headline-grabbing, there are still questions whether the judgements will be ultimately enforced. Courts have levied tens of billions of dollars in fines against logging, pulp and paper, mining, and palm oil companies in Sumatra in recent years, but only a tiny fraction of the penalties have ever been paid. Cases may be held up for years by appeals or quietly dropped. Prosecutors are shuffled between agencies, companies change names and laws shift.

Accordingly, Graham Usher of the PanEco Foundation says it is still too early to determine whether the Tripa case is a one-off or the emergence of a broader trend of better environmental law enforcement.

“The court’s decision is indeed a huge victory, and represents one significant step in the right direction,” Usher said in a statement. But I think many more such steps are needed before we will really see a change in the behavior of companies and officials.”

Indonesia has among the highest deforestation rates in the world, with the country losing almost half of its forest cover since 1950. Over the past twenty years, deforestation has been increasingly driven by industrial activities, including conversion for oil palm and timber plantations, intensive logging, and mining.

Deforestation has left several of Indonesia’s best-known animal species at risk of extinction, including tigers, rhinos, elephants, and orangutans, all of which live in Aceh. Forest loss has also increased social conflict in some areas, especially places with forest-dependent populations.

 

Palm oil company fined US$30m for clearing 1,000 hectares in Indonesia

Company ordered to pay US$30m for burning 1,000 hectares for palm oil plantation

An Indonesian court has ordered a palm oil company to pay almost US$30 million to the state for illegally clearing peatland in a “historic” ruling, government lawyers said yesterday.

The Meulaboh district court on Sumatra island ruled on Wednesday that Indonesian company Kallista Alam had illegally burned vegetation on 1,000 hectares of peatland in Aceh province to clear it for a palm oil plantation.

In the civil case brought by the Ministry of Environment, the court ordered the company to pay 114.3 billion rupiah (HK$73 million) in losses to the state and 252 billion rupiah to rehabilitate the land it destroyed.

The forest was protected under several laws, including a presidential decree suspending new permits to log peatland and some other types of forests across the country.

Using fire to clear land is also illegal. The practice has sent choking haze across parts of Southeast Asia in recent years.

“This is a historic moment for law enforcement on environmental issues in Indonesia. We hope it will deter plantation companies from damaging the environment,” the environment ministry’s lawyer, Syafruddin, said.

The case was seen as a test of the moratorium on logging permits and of reform in the country’s corrupt and mismanaged forestry sector, which has allowed destruction of habitats to plant palm oil and timber.

Environmental groups welcomed the decision, saying it was a sign of improved law enforcement and would set a precedent.

“This is a clear message to companies working in Aceh who think they can destroy protected forests and get away with it,” Friends of the Earth Indonesia chairman Muhammad Nur said.

Indonesia, home to one of the world’s largest expanses of tropical rainforest, is also the world’s biggest palm oil producer.

The company’s lawyer, Alfian Sarumaha, said Kallista Alam would likely appeal the ruling.

Aceh Reports Sixth Elephant Death This Year

Kids gather around a 2-year-old elephant cub left behind by its pack and looked after by residents of Blang Pante village in North Aceh district in this June 23, 2013 file photo. The animal died two months after it was found. (Photo courtesy of Silfa)

Kids gather around a 2-year-old elephant cub left behind by its pack and looked after by residents of Blang Pante village in North Aceh district in this June 23, 2013 file photo. The animal died two months after it was found. (Photo courtesy of Silfa)

Jakarta Globe – Nurdin Hasan

Banda Aceh. A female Sumatran elephant, estimated to be seven years old, died last week in the district of Aceh Jaya, the sixth elephant death this year in Aceh.

The carcass was found on a river bank in Masen village in the subdistrict of Sampoiniet, Aceh Jaya, on Monday. The animal was estimated to have died a week ago and investigators could not confirm the cause of death on Dec. 3.

“Local residents said the elephant died because it was caught in a trap — there’s a rope on its leg,” Amon Zamora, the head of Aceh’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday. “The BKSDA team sent to the location is still conducting an investigation.”

Amon said the team was performing an autopsy to investigate the cause of the death, including whether or not the animal had been poisoned — am increasingly common cause of elephant deaths in Aceh.

The recent finding brings the number of elephants found dead in Aceh in 2013 to six.

In May, a 10-year-old male elephant died due to electrocution in Bangkeh village in the Pidie district.

In June, a two-year-old elephant calf died in Blang Plante village in North Aceh, two months after villagers took the animal in after it was left behind by its herd in a nearby plantation.

On July 13, a 30-year-old male elephant was found dead in Ranto Sabon village in Aceh Jaya after being caught in a metal trap.

On July 27, two elephant carcasses were found decaying in an oil palm plantation run by state-owned plantation firm PTPN I in Blang Tualang village in East Aceh district.

Amon said elephant-human conflicts had become widespread across 19 out of 23 districts and municipalities in Aceh, with Aceh Jaya, East Aceh, Pidie, South Aceh, Singkil and North Aceh reporting the most problems.

“The conflicts keep happening because the routes used by elephants have been converted into plantations,” he said. “We’ve called on people several times against disturbing the elephants’ pathway, but it keeps happening.”

Amon said only around 200 Sumatrans elephants remained in the wild in Aceh forests.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified Sumatran elephants as critically endangered. The population in the wild — spread over Sumatra and Borneo — is estimated at between 2,400 and 2,800 individuals.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature says around 70 percent of the Sumatran elephant’s habitat has been destroyed by deforestation in the last 25 years.

 

 

[FAX ACTION] World Heritage for Leuser Ecosystem letter template and contact list.

Dear friends,

We are writing requesting you to lend your voice to a positive campaign to improve the protection and management of the Leuser Ecosystem (KEL) in Aceh, Sumatra. By faxing the attached letter, to the Governor Aceh, and the provided contact list in attachment, you will greatly emphasise the full list of recipients. In addition we hope this action will gain media attention and act as a catalyst for garnering further support for this campaign.

The attached letter urges the Governor of Aceh to nominate KEL to become a new UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS). You are likely aware of the recent Science article (Le Saout et al., 2013) in which KEL was identified as one of the world’s foremost exceptionally irreplaceable areas for the conservation of threatened species. KEL is already recognized as a protected area under National law in Indonesia, not least due to its critical ecological services to communities, agriculture and industry. A nomination for World Heritage status would build upon this national and international recognition.

You may also be aware of the controversial spatial plan proposed by Aceh Parliament which received a great deal of media attention this year. Recently we have learned that a ‘Pergub’ has also been drafted: a Governors Law on KEL that would ‘legalize’ widespread damage to the critically important lowlands of the NE in particular. This is currently being aggressively pursued in order to push it through before the end of the year, disregarding calls by experts to wait for environmental sensitivity analyses of these irreplaceable areas.

A united positive message from the international scientific community now would therefore be extremely timely. Receiving a large volume of signed faxes from scientists and leading international institutions will highlight the incompatibility of a nomination for World Heritage status with the current Aceh spatial plan and impress upon the Governor of Aceh the fact that our community is paying close attention to the management and protection of this area.

The letter is addressed to the Governor of Aceh and we also ask you to fax the letter to various overseas embassies and the donor/aid community in an attempt to highlight a better way forward for Aceh. The aim is to create a situation in which these organisations can support the Aceh Government with technical expertise and funding to create and implement a scientifically sound spatial plan. A viable plan will maintain the biodiversity and environmental function of Aceh’s forests (e.g., water resources, mitigation of natural disasters), whilst maximising the opportunities for long-term sustainable economic development for Aceh.

We appreciate the effort required to send these as fax, but emails alone risk being drowned out in a “wave of protest” as we also have 4 public email petitions supporting this WHS nomination in preparation. By sending this as fax is separates this action from the easy click petitions, and highlights the importance of this action. Therefore, if you are willing to put your name to the attached letter, we ask that you aim for the highest impact possible and fax it as soon as possible to the list below. The costs of faxing are only manageable shared between us all.

Please find list of contacts and fax numbers in an attachment at the bottom of this post.

If you cannot fax from your institution’s fax machine, here is a link with methods to fax from your computer if you have a landline attached, or by using online services*: http://www.wikihow.com/Fax-Without-Using-a-Fax-Machine
(*Note that you will need to sign up for a 30 day free trial to use some free online fax services, be sure to cancel if you don’t wish to pay a monthly subscription fee beyond that).

Please email a scan of your letter letting us know that you have taken this action to: leuserecosystemwhs@gmail.com

We appreciate you sharing this email with your networks.

Kind regards,
Ian Singleton1 and Rudi Putra2

1Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme
2Future for Nature Award Winner (2013)

sample letter from GRASP letter Aceh Governor

Leuser Ecosystem WHA reccomendation letter and contact list

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