The roar of chainsaws has replaced birdsong, the once-lush, green jungle scorched to a barren grey. The equivalent of six football pitches of forest is lost every minute in Indonesia.
Tanjung Puting Nat Park – Orang Utan, Proboscis Monkey Camp Leakey –
The disappearance of the trees has pushed thousands of animals—from the birds they harbour and sustain to orangutans, gibbons and black panthers—out of their natural homes and habitats.
They have been replaced by plantations that are too nutrient-poor to support such wildlife, instead dedicated solely to producing fruit that is pulped to make oil used globally in products ranging from food to fuel.
A palm oil tree can yield useable fruit in three years and continue doing so for the next 25 years. But such wealth creation has meant environmental destruction. “We don’t see too many orangutans any more”, said a worker with a weather-beaten face, taking a break in the shade of a hut built on a path gouged out of the forest floor.
Experts believe there are about 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 80 percent of them in Indonesia’s Borneo and the rest in Malaysia. Exact data on their decline is hard to come by, say primatologists. “What we see now is a contest between orangutans and palm oil for a home,” said Sri Suci Utami Atmoko from National University in Jakarta. “You can judge that the population is depleting from the loss of orangutan habitats.” Gibbons, often recognisable by the rings of white fur that frame their faces, are among the hardest-hit species. “There are 100,000 gibbons in Borneo. But in 15-20 years, there will be more viable populations,” said Aurelien Brule, a French national based in Borneo for 15 years who runs an animal sanctuary. Gibbons rescued from the destruction of their forest homes cannot be returned alone into new wild habitats. “Other pairs protecting their own territory would kill them,” said Brule, adding that rampant deforestation has wiped out sites suitable for single animals. Enlarge A bulldozer that is used in clearing forest land for palm oil plantations in Borneo. The roar of chainsaws has replaced birdsong, the once-lush, green jungle scorched to a barren grey. The equivalent of six football pitches of forest is lost every minute in Indonesia. There is also a human cost, with the permits for plantations resulting in the eviction of indigenous people.
Abdon Nababan, the secretary general of AMAN, an Indonesian indigenous peoples alliance, said there is no exact data but recorded cases of land conflict are in the hundreds, with thousands of people possibly affected. “Palm oil has brought fortune to Indonesia, but it has been gained with blood,” said Jakarta-based forest campaigner for Greenpeace, Wirendro Sumargo. Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has exponentially increased the land dedicated to the commodity from 274,000 hectares (680,000 acres) in the 1980s to 7.32 million hectares in 2009, government documents show. The industry has helped push Indonesia’s GDP growth rate above 6.0 percent every year since 2005, but at the cost of huge tracts of rainforest. An area roughly the size of Denmark was lost between 2000 and 2010 across Indonesia and its neighbour Malaysia, according to a study published last year in the Global Change Biology journal. Despite some backlash around the world, including an unsuccessful attempt in France to push an amendment to quadruple tax on palm oil to discourage consumption—the destruction is unlikely to stop any time soon. Indonesia, which together with Malaysia holds 85 percent of the market, aims to increase production more than 60 percent by 2020. To appease environmental concerns, it last year imposed a moratorium on new permits in primary forests and peatlands. But critics say it is a cosmetic move, with plantations overlapping sensitive environments. One example can be found in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest, in the northwest of Aceh province, home to endangered species such as Sumatran rhinos and tigers. In this area, “we have evidence that five palm oil firms are doing illegal practices”, said Deddy Ratih, forest campaigner for WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia. Derom Bangun, the chairman of umbrella organisation the Indonesian Palm Oil Board, doesn’t deny the issue but says improvements are being made. “The government has seen (the violations) and has taken steps to fix it. Ultimately we want the palm oil industry to work according to the rules,” he added. In an effort to improve their image, some palm oil firms have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a forum consisted namely of green groups and growers. The WWF, one of the founders of RSPO, admitted that there is still a conservation shortfall. “Generally land allocation for plantations still overlaps with primary forests and peatlands, including in areas that are the habitat of key species,” said Irwan Gunawan, WWF deputy director of market transformation in Indonesia. “We are encouraging the government to pay attention to this,” he added.
The rainforests are the lungs of our planet and must be protected. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently determined that palm oil should not be included in the Renewable Fuel Standard, because palm oil causes the most pollution due to the clearing and burning dense rainforests, many of them on carbon-rich peatland, for oil palm plantations.
The palm oil industry is vigorously attacking EPA’s conclusion, alleging it’s based on inaccurate assumptions and data. It doesn’t want it used to disqualify palm oil-based fuels from the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).
The industry has hired lobbying companies like Holland & Knight to overturn EPA’s preliminary finding that palm-based biofuels don’t meet the greenhouse gas standards of the federal renewable auto fuels mandate.
Indonesia is the world’s biggest palm oil producer. The widespread deforestation for new plantations has made Indonesia the world’s third biggest global warming polluter and has led to the killing of endangered species like orang utans.
Next week an EPA delegation will visit a palm oil plantation on Sumatra island and then meet the Indonesian agriculture minister, Gamal Nasir. Regarding this visit, it is extremely important to make the EPA aware of the environmental hazards caused by the cultivation of palm oil.
Please tell the EPA to stand by their decision that palm-based biofuels don’t meet the greenhouse gas standards of the federal renewable auto fuels mandate!
- By 2020, Indonesian palm oil plantations will release more CO2 than Canada (energybulletin.net)
- U.S. officials to visit Indonesia for palm oil emissions talks (reuters.com)
- [Off-the-shelf] Children of the Sunshine Industry: Child Labor and Workers’ Condition in Oil Palm Plantations in Caraga-CTUHR (hronlineph.com)
- Palm Oil Seen Clearing Tropical Forest in Borneo in Yale Study – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Stop the EPA From Including Palm Oil in BioFuel Standards! (gettingonmysoapbox.wordpress.com)
Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah has been instructed to revoke a legally problematic business permit owned by oil company, PT Kallista Alam, which operates in the carbon-rich Tripa peat swamps in Nagan Raya regency, Aceh, by the Medan Administrative Court after granting an appeal filed by the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).
The permit was granted to the company by former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf on Aug. 25, 2011, contradicting Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on the moratorium of new permits in primary forests and peatland conversion areas.
Walhi Aceh’s executive director, Teuku Muhammad Zulfikar, applauded the verdict, which was signed by a panel of judges led by Arpani Mansur on Aug. 30, saying it was an important ruling supporting efforts to protect more than 61,000 hectares of Tripa peatland.
“We urge the Aceh governor to immediately follow up the verdict by revoking the company’s permit, as well as evaluating all permits owned by other oil palm companies operating in the area,” Zulfikar said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post Digital on Wednesday.
Tripa peat swamp is peatland with a depth of three meters or more, meaning it is protected under a 1990 presidential decree.
PT Kallista Alam is also the subject of an ongoing investigation by the National Police for allegedly illegally burning the protected peat swamp to convert the area into an oil palm plantation, further threatening the ecosystem of about 200 orangutans that live in the area.
SUKA MAKMUE – Top officials and representatives of UKP4, REDD+ Task Force National Police, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forestry and Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority conducted over flight to monitor Tripa Peat Swamp during their visit on Thursday, July 5, 2012.
Nirarta Samadhi, said that the Deputy V of UKP only observed the current condition of Tripa Peat Swamp from the air to complete several final steps related to the case of permits for oil palm plantation in the area.
Besides, to apply moratorium for all activities in Tripa, to request for multi-party support including from the Local Government and to conduct scientific research to identify the condition and the chemical substance of the swamp, added Nirarta.
“Also to ask the government to review the existing permits, since these are issued based on various reasons,” said Nirarta confirming to The Atjeh Post via cellular phone.
Those steps, she said, are to finalise the case and to restore Tripa Peat Swamp into protected area.
“From those several steps, we request for a good solution to avoid any error in the future,” said Nirarta.
Beforehand, based on information gathered by The Atjeh Post, the team has stopped by Cut Nyak Dhien Air Field in Nagan Raya at aroung 9:30 in the morning of Thursday, July 5, 2012 before flying over Tripa. 
Ichwan Susanto | Marcus Suprihadi
JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com- Indonesian Ministry of Forestry sent a letter to the Aceh Governor in order to have details on the permit issued by the former governor, Irwandi Yusuf, on 1,605 ha to PT Kalista Alam. The respond from the current governor will be utilised as a base either to re-inlude the area into or to keep the area excluded from the moratorium map.
“We have asked the Governor, whether the permit for PT Kalista Alam is a new permit or an extension,” said Bambang Soepijanto, Director General for Forest Planology of the Ministy of Forestry on Saturday in (19/5/2012) Jakarta.
If the permit for the 1,605 ha in Tripa Peat Swamp (part of Leuser Ecosystem) is a new permit, then the former Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf did not apply the Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 forbidding any issuance of permit starting May 2011.
If it is an extension permit, while plantation and location permit are issued, Bambang declared not to be able to re-include in the moratorium map.
The urgency for the Ministry of Forestry to re-include the 1,605 ha of Tripa Peat Swamp comes from the community, NGOs and the Presidential Working Unit for Development Supervision and Control (UKP4).
- The Case of Tripa Peat Swamp: Entry Point To Revision Of Moratorium Map | KOMPAS (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Clearing of Tripa Peat Swamp Forest Threatening Orangutan | Koran Tempo (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Regency head calls for stop to palm oil development in contested peat forest in Indonesia (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Actor of Violation in Tripa To Be Prosecuted (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Walhi, REDD task force fight forest clearing – The Jakarta Post (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
Tue, May 15, 2012 | Analisa Daily
Banda Aceh, (Analisa). The Head of REDD+ Task Force, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, emphasized that the government will take assertive action to both the companies and certain party within the governmental bureaucracy involved in the legal violation in Tripa Peat Swamp in Nagan Raya District.
REDD+ Task Force has also appreciated all ministries and law enforcement institutions to firmly and effectively process the case in Tripa.
“With such good work, we hope that the case can be processed properly to appropriately enforce the law. If legal violation is proven, there will be prosecution,” emphasized Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, in a press conference received by Analisa on Monday (14/5).
It is said that being a peat swamp and habitat for scarce species such as orangutan, it is necessary to preserve Tripa Peat Swamp. In this connection, the government responded seriously all inputs related to the controversy of the oil palm plantation of PT Kalista Alam (PT KA) within the Moratorium Map I. The area was then burning at the same time with the fire in the concession area of PT Surya Panen Subur 2 (PT SPS2).
Based on the incident and in respond to the reports by the community, the Ministry of Environment together with a team from the National Police and the Attorney General in the beginning of May has sent a team to the site to conduct investigation.
The result, indications of various legal violations has been identified, such as clearing of 1,605 ha of land prior to the issuance of the licence for cultivation plantation by the Governor. Then, there was indication of clearing by burning.
Based on those indications, the team concluded that there is legal violations. Therefore, there is strong indication that the combustion within the area of PT SPS 2 and of PT KA was suspiciously conducted systematically. This means that the legal prosecution would not affect only individual actor but also the related companies.
To Be Punished
Therefore, said Kuntoro, in accordance with the Article 69 point h of the Law No 32/2009 on the Environmental Protection and Management, company or company director is liable to sanctions if the crime act was conducted on behalf of or for the company.
Besides the crime process, continued Kuntoro, civil process is compulsory to be carried out in the form of compensation to the loss caused by the fire. The Ministry of Environment on behalf of the State can file civil law suit demanding compensation without having to wait for the final court verdict.
Clearing and planting of oil palm without licence and land concession by PT KA in the majority of the area of 1,605 ha has been verified based on existing documents and confession of the company in the presence of the Forestry Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the People Consultative Assembly/Senator Farhan Hamid, an Aceh origin, on May 6, 2012.
According to the Law No.18/2004 on Plantation, in the legal process conducting land clearing and planting of oil palm without licence, the business actor is liable to crime sanctions. Therefore, the legal process has to continue.
Related to the peat depth, both in the burned area of PT SPS2 and PT KA, existing data shows that those areas are peat with more than 3 meters depth. Any licence for oil palm plantation in areas under such condition violates the Decree of the Minister of Agriculture No. 14/Permentan/PL.110/2/2009 on the Guidelines of the Utilisation of Peatlands for Oil Palm Cultivation as well as some other regulation on peatland utilisation.
Kuntoro continued, the Governor of Aceh needed therefore to review the licence for PT SPS2, especially in the burned area, as well as the licence for PT KA. Besides, the clearing by burning conducted by both companies is prohibited and is liable to administrative sanction, the withdrawal of the permit, in accordance with the Article 39 jo. Article 34 Point d of the Regulation of the Minister of Agriculture No. 26/2007 on the Guidelines of Plantation Business.
Related to the Moratorium Map, concerning that PT KA has not yet possess any concession permit for the 1,605 ha, then based on the Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 the area should be included in the Moratorium Map.
To guarantee legal protection of forest and areas with protecting function within an “Other Land Use” as well as to secure business certainty for entrepreneurs, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Forestry, District Regents and other related agency needs to re-analyse the conditions and procedures in the issuance of licence for plantation. (irn)
Indonesia to investigate contested oil palm concession as governor loses election in Sumatra
April 12, 2012
Fires in Tripa peatforest. Cortesy of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP).
A high ranking Indonesian official is investigating the controversial grant of an oil palm concession within an area of protected peat forest in Aceh on the island of Sumatra, reports the Jakarta Globe.
Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of Indonesia’s REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Task Force, told the newspaper he has asked the National Land Agency (BPN) to provide a map of the Tripa area so he can investigate violations alleged by environmental groups and local communities. Critics of the oil palm concession, which is run by PT Kallista Alam, say it was granted in violation of a national moratorium on peat forest conversion and is opposed by locals. Conservationists argue that the area is also protected as part of the Leuser Ecosystem.
Kuntoro agreed that the circumstances around the concession are irregular.
That plantation is inside the protected forest. It’s strange that they can get a permit. I suspect something behind the issue of the permit,” he was quoted as saying.
Last week Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf admitted that the concession was “morally wrong”. He added that his aim in granting the permit was to raise awareness that the world has been slow to make good on a commitment to support efforts to protect Aceh’s forests.
“The international community think our forest is a free toilet for their carbon,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Every day they are saying they want clean air and to protect forests…but they want to inhale our clean air without paying anything.”
Irwandi however lost his re-election bid for governor Monday. The impact on his election loss on Aceh’s forests in uncertain. Until the Tripa controversy, Irwandi had been a champion of forest preservation efforts. He unilaterally established a moratorium on deforestation on 2007 and emerged as a leader within the Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force, an initiative which aims to create interim financial incentives between states and provinces in rich and tropical nations ahead of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) program.
Biological surveys in the 1990s showed that Tripa once contained some of the highest densities of Sumatran orangutans in the world, which are considered critically endangered due to habitat loss. But the population has rapidly declined as the areas peat forests have been drained and cleared for oil palm plantations.
Sumatra’s rainforests and peatlands have been rapidly destroyed in recent decades. During the 1990s the island lost 3.7 million hectares, mostly a consequence of agricultural expansion, pulp and paper plantations, and palm oil production. Sumatra is the last refuge for several charismatic and highly endangered species, including Sumatran tigers, rhinos, elephants, and orangutans.
Forest fires resulting from the destruction of Sumatra’s forests have in some years cast a pall over neighboring countries — especially Singapore — and released millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere.