Indonesia Investigating Palm Oil Companies Over Forest Fires

Indonesia Investigating Palm Oil Companies Over Forest Fires
Ahmad Pathoni | May 15, 2012 | The Jakarta Globe

Joint investigation team arriving at the crime site witness heavy machinary illegally digging drainage canals in deep peat of Tripa Peat Swamp Forest. The Joint investigation team is supported by National Police, Provincial Police and Indonesian Ministry of Environment
Credit: Coalition to save Tripa Forest / Handout / 3/05/2012

Indonesia has launched a criminal investigation into the burning of a peatland forest on Sumatra island that environmentalists said resulted in the deaths of orangutans, an official said on Tuesday.

Investigators will summon officials from two companies suspected of burning a large swath of the Tripa forest to make way for palm oil plantations, said Sudaryono, the head of law enforcement at the Environment Ministry.

“Our investigators found that there have been fires in areas controlled by SPS2 and KA,” he said, referring to palm oil companies Surya Panen Subur 2 and Kallista Alam.

A coalition of local and international conservation groups warned in March that orangutans in the Tripa forest could disappear by the end of this year unless action was taken to stop fires and land clearing there.

The coalition said an estimated 100 orangutans had died in the area in recent years as a result of land clearing, with only 200 remaining.

The government’s task force for the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program said there were indications that plantation companies cleared more than 1,600 hectares of peatland areas even before they obtained concession permits.

“Law enforcers concluded that there have been legal violations,” task force chief Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said.

Under Indonesia’s environmental law, forest clearing using fires is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 10 billion rupiah ($1 million).

Kallista Alam has denied wrongdoing and blamed local farmers for the fires.

In May 2011, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree committing Indonesia to a two-year moratorium on new clearing permits for an area of around 60 million hectares of virgin forest and carbon-rich peatland.

The move was part of the country’s commitment to the REDD program, which aims to reduce climate change from greenhouse gasses.

But in August, the then-governor of Aceh province, Irwandi Yusuf, signed a permit to allow Kallista Alam to operate in Tripa.

The environmental coalition is awaiting a verdict on an appeal seeking the revocation of the permit.

Tripa was included in the moratorium map in April 2011, but it disappeared from a revised version in November, the local environmental group Walhi said.

Greenpeace said in a report released this month that the moratorium had done little to protect forests, with almost 50 percent of the country’s primary forests and peatland without any protection.

The destruction of peatlands releases large amounts of carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.

Indonesia is among the largest producers of greenhouse gasses, largely owing to the rapid destruction of its forests. It aims to reduce the emissions by at least 26 percent by 2020.

DPA

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About endoftheicons

The Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is in grave danger. Local politicians want to allow logging, mining and palm oil plantations in this vulnerable area. Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers are already hanging on by a thread. They will not survive the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.

7 responses to “Indonesia Investigating Palm Oil Companies Over Forest Fires”

  1. Susan Hundy says :

    With so many authorities working around and on this case of deforestation then tell me why is this happening behind there back ….. internal Corruption that what it is Susan Hundy

    • endoftheicons says :

      Hi Susan,

      Corruption is rampant in country like Indonesia, and so often case light this get buried and forgotten. But the combination of the work on the ground, international attention and various pressure has shed some light on the reality of complicated and often corrupt bureaucracy in Indonesia. With the current investigation that takes place, we need to make sure the government are upholding the law and punish the violators.

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