The Jakarta Globe | Fidelis E. Satriastanti | July 23, 2012
The Environment Ministry is investigating eight plantation companies in Sumatra for allegedly clearing nearly 4,000 hectares of forest using slash-and-burn methods.
Arief Yuwono, the minister’s deputy for environmental damage control and climate change, said on Sunday that the companies were believed to have burned down more than 3,800 hectares of forest.
“Two of the companies are in Riau, four are in South Sumatra and two are in Aceh,” he said.
He added that the ministry was also investigating some local officials involved in issuing permits to the companies.
The investigation comes as the Environment Ministry prioritizes measures to prevent haze as a result of forest fires on the island and particularly in Riau, which is set to host the 18th National Games in September.
Purwasto Saroprayogi, head of the ministry’s forest fire monitoring department, said the areas of top priority were Pelalawan and Rokan Hilir districts in Riau.
“We’re giving priority to these two regions because the number of forest fire hot spots detected there is quite high,” Purwasto said.
He added that there was a risk of more fires spreading in the province because of the hot spots.
He said that under the ministry’s Fire Danger Rating System, officials now had a better understanding of how the fires were spreading.
“Whereas before we could only monitor once every seven days, now we can do it once every three days,” Purwasto said.
As of July 15, there were 2,643 hot spots detected in Riau this year, or more than half of the 4,876 detected across Indonesia by a US satellite. South Sumatra accounted for 1,180 hot spots, while West Kalimantan had 1,053.
In Riau, most of the hot spots were concentrated in Pelalawan district, with 527, followed by Bengkalis and Rokan Hilir.
Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya warned that the number of fires would increase as the dry season continued, fanned in part by the “El Nino” phenomenon in October.
“Based on the information from the FDRS and predictions of decreased rainfall, there will be a high potential of forest fires in the eight most prone provinces of North and South Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, and [all of] Kalimantan,” he said as quoted by environmental website MongaBay.co.id.
Roasted In Tripa Peat Swamp
Not only orangutans are displaced through the burning of peatland. Community from the surrounding areas also became hostile towards the environment of Tripa Peat Swamp.
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta–The skull of the primate simply lied under a burnt trunk of a tree, measuring not more than 1 1/2 times of a tennis ball. Tempo took the opportunity to take picture of the also burnt skull from top to bottom. Until then, nobody commented.
But, we attempt to lift it, two guys who were in silece, firmly reminded. “Don’t remove it. It is evidence,” said Indriyanto, an activist from Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari, who has been accompanying Tempo exploring Tripa Peat Swamp of Nagan Raya, Aceh.
Indriyanto and Suratman, local community members guiding the path, were convinced that the skull belonged to burnt orangutan infant, since two weeks earlier they still saw two orangutans in that peat swamp area, that was about to be converted into oil palm plantation. At that particular time, trees were still stanging within the area occupied by PT. Kallista Alam and PT. Surya Panen Subur.
Within 2011-2012, Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari and the Agency for Natural Concervation – Aceh has evacuated 6 orangutans from Tripa Peat Swamp. Indriyanto, together with Suratman, have brought those scarce animas to an intact forest area in Aceh Tengah.
Currently, Tripa Peat Swamp can hardly appear as home for orangutan. As far eyes can see, tree trunks and branches are scattered, turned into charcoal. Smoke was still rising in many places. To avoid sinking into collapsed peat caused by burning, one had to step on the remaining trunks and roots. In the middle of this ocean of charcoal, GPS was very useful to determine the direction. “In the past, I used to put bamboo fish trap under these trunks and roots to catch catfish,” recalled Suratman.
After crossing a drainage canal of 5m wide seperating the area of PT Kallista and PT Surya, Suratman stood on the pile of roots of a fallen tree. He pulled out a binoculars and observed the far lying obserrvation tower. “Empty,” he said. this means that we were saved to enter the hundreds hectares area that is divided into blocks through the drainage canals. In certain blocks, palm oil seedlings are seen growing up to 50 cm height.
Since last May, dozens of invesigators from the Central Police and from the Ministry of Environment continued to interrogate the management of PT Kallista Alam and PT Surya Panen Subur. They are in terms of investigating two cases of legal violation: clearing by burning and planting in more than 3 m deep peat.
Oil palm plantations are the source of the peat destruction in Tripa and in other sites within Aceh. Before encroachment and transformation into oil palm plantation, in the 80s, this peatland in the west coast of Aceh has been preserving and regulating water, just like sponges. It absorbs water during rainy season to prevent from flood. Then, it releases the water bit by bit during dry season to prevent from drought.
Not less important, Tripa Peat Swamp forest was a comfortable living space for Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). Most of the Sumatran orangutans’ population live in this particular coastal peat swamp of Aceh full of palms and rattans. The rest are distributed within the hinterland forest of Leuser Ecosystem and North Sumatra Province.
Until the beginning of the 90’s, the number of orangutans in this 62,000 ha of Tripa Peat Swamp reached up tp 1,000. Disaster occurred as the Indonesian Government of New Order era issued land concessions (HGU) to a number of private companies in 1991. Those companies cleared the peat forest and transformed it in oil palm plantations.
Now, 7 companies are in the possession of concession within Tripa Peat Swamp. Each occupies between 3,000 to 13,000 ha. Hence, the remaining peatland are around 17,000 ha. Orangutan experts considered that the remaining area is too small for around 280 orangutan estimated to surive in Tripa Peat Swamp.
According to Ian Singleton, the Conservation Director of Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, most of the burning parts of Tripa Peat Swamp forest are orangutan habitat. “Before, we found many orangutans there,” he said. On the last June 10, Ian was taken by Suratman and Indriyanto to see the skull suspected to be of an orangutan. After showing its photo to a friend, a taxonomy, the skull was identified to be of a crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) or pig-tail macaque (Macaca nemestrina).
Tens of drainage canals constructed by oil palm plantations have absorbed the water from the peat. Even if it was not burnt, the trees producing fruits for the orangutan would die due to dryness. Refered to the last year’s research, Singleton estimated that the peat swamp forest and orangutan of Tripa will vanish in 2015.
Within the past recent years, Ali Basyiah always spent the day top-less. This villager of Kuala Seumayam in the Sub district of Darul Makmur, Nagan Raya, cannot stand the heat. Even at night, his wife and children sleeps with electric fan. “The temperature increased since oil palm companies operates here,” said Ali, whose village is situated on the edge of PT. Kalista Alam’s plantation areas.
According to temperature measurement of 14 November 2007, the temperature in the surrounding of Tripa Peat Swamp has increased drastically. At 9.30 am, the temperature is already 37 degree celcius. Within three hours, it increases to 43 degree. NOw, after 5 years, Ali feels that the temperature in his village became higher.
Ali did not only suffer because of the temperature alone. His income from fishing and from collecting sweet water shells is decreasing. As Tripa Peat Swamp forest was still intact, Ali only needed to install his bamboo fish trap under a tree within the forest. At that time, he could catch averagely 30 kg of catfish and 3 sacks of sweet water shells. Those times are now history. Now, Ali can only catch te maximum of 10 kg catfish in a day. And for that he had to search to the upstream.
Executive Director of WALHI Aceh, T.M. Zulfikar, said that the experience of the community in the surrounding of Tripa Peat Swamp in the past 5 years is the opposite to the Aceh Green programme launched by the former Governor Irwandi Yusuf after his inauguration i the beginning of 2007.
Zulfikar then revealed the data. Before 2007, forest distruction in Aceh was averagely 20,000 ha per year. After 2007, the forest destruction in Aceh increased between 23,000 and 40,000 ha per year. “The Government of Aceh appeared to have swallowed it own word,” said Adnan N.S. from the Supervisory Board of Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari.
Press Release: Call for Enforcement of Law against illegal activity destroying Tripa’s Peat Swamps continues to escalate
JOINT PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Distribution
Call for Enforcement of Law against illegal activity destroying Tripa’s Peat Swamps continues to escalate
FROM: Alliance of Environmental and Human Rights NGOs
Wetlands International Indonesia Program
Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari
Yayasan Ekosistem Sigom Aceh
PanEco Foundation – Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme
Yayasan Orangutan Sumatera Lestari –OIC
The Nature Conservancy
Profauna Indonesia LASA
Orangutan Foundation International
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
Flora and Fauna International
Centre for Orangutan Protection
Yayasan IAR Indonesia
Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trusts
Forum Konservasi Orangutan Sumatera
Institute Pertanian Bogor (IPB)
Universitas Indonesia (UI)
Universitas Nasional (UNAS)
Environmental and Human Rights NGO’s are increasing their campaign to save the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest.
Human rights and Environmental NGOs, Academic and other Civil Society groups met today at a meeting hosted by the Research Centre for Climate Change, University of Indonesia, in the campaign to save Rawa Tripa, following reports of increased intimidation of local villagers by palm oil companies and of health problems associated with smoke from fires illegally set to clear peat lands, with some villagers from communities surrounding Tripa requiring medical treatment. Local people have already lost their livelihoods due to the massive clearance of this unique wetland forest for oil palm, which is now threatening its total destruction. Numerous huge fires were reported by ground and aerial observers at the end of March, and over 100 fire hotspots were recorded by satellite in a period of only 10 days, the highest frequency of hotspots recorded in Tripa since records began in 2001. The head of the President’s Satgas REDD+ team, Ir. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, in a press release of 13 April reported that his investigation team found fires had been deliberately set in the concessions of PT Kallista Alam and PT Surya Panen Subur 2, breaking several laws and regulations and causing negative environmental impacts. These fires caught the world’s attention when Sumatran orangutan experts warned of the imminent extinction of the species in Tripa, a UNEP/UNESCO GRASP global priority site for the species, before the end of 2012.
Pak Ibduh a village head representing the local communities of Tripa added, “The communities are living in fear of the companies. They use brimob (Indonesia’s mobile police brigade) as a private security force, evicting people from their land, preventing access across plantations and clearing local landowners farms for palm oil. The palm oil companies seem to operate as if they are above the law and we see the results every day. Clean water supplies are vanishing and it is increasingly difficult to catch fish and obtain other natural resources as the forests are cleared and drained by the many canals. Our people are suffering and we want immediate action to stop this and restore Tripa’s forests”.
Pak Ibduh joined lawyer, Kamaruddin, and former senator of Aceh, Adnan NS, in Jakarta in late November last year to file a report of a criminal offence with the National Police. “The central police then issued a letter to the police of Aceh to investigate the case, in which they confirmed that it does meet the criteria for a criminal investigation, but as of now, nearly 5 months later, we have not seen any attempt at an investigation from the Aceh Provincial Police” stated Kamaruddin
In the press release of April 13, Ir. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, also announced that his investigation team reported indications of several other violations such as the converting of peat swamp forests inside the Leuser Ecosystem, converting peat swamp forest on deep peat, and converting forest before a permit had been issued. He has formally requested an immediate investigation by the Ministry of the Environment and the National Police. Four days later, on April 17th, the Jakarta Globe newspaper reported that the Environment Ministry said it will launch an investigation into the issuance of a plantation concession inside the Tripa peat swamp forest in Aceh province.
We the NGO’s gathered here today at the Research Center for Climate Change, University of Indonesia, fully support the call of the Satgas REDD+ for an immediate investigation into the crimes committed in Tripa, including the criminal case filed with the National Police by Pak Ibduh in November last year and request an explanation of why it has not yet been properly followed up. We also express our full support to WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) in their legal challenge against the concession issued to PT Kallista Alam by the former Governor of Aceh in their appeal at the high court in Medan, North Sumatra.
We request that the responsible National Ministries, namely the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Forestry order an immediate halt to all deforestation and land degradation in the Tripa peat swamps. We request that these Ministries assist the National Police to quickly implement a thorough investigation of all illegal activities and dealings that have been perpetrated in the Tripa peat swamps, including the illegal PT. Kallista Alam concession permit and land use practices that contravene laws on National Spatial Planning, and those protecting the Leuser Ecosystem, the environment, peatlands, endangered species, and that forbid the burning of land.
In the face of such blatant and widely publicized law-breaking it is imperative that the laws of Indonesia be upheld openly and transparently, and that guilty parties be held accountable to the full extent of the law. Failure to do so will further damage the credibility of Indonesia’s law enforcement and legal system, its commitment to GHG emissions reduction, and its attempt to develop sustainable palm oil,and without urgent and immediate action, if current destruction is allowed by President SBY and the Indonesian Government, then the critically endangered Sumatran Orangutan population is likely to become extinct this year.
We simply want to see Indonesia’s laws enforced. We support and encourage the forthcoming International Day of Action on April 26th, where supporters and partners from around the world will be taking action calling on Indonesian President SBY to publicly state his support to enforce Indonesian laws, protecting Tripa, the community of the region, and its Sumatran Orangutan population. Without immediate action, then Tripa’s unique population of the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan, at this continued rate of destruction, will be gone by the end of this year.
Notes for Editors:
The press release following the report delivered by REDD+ Taskforce is
available for download, with contact details here:
For further comment or contact,
Teguh Surya: Walhi / Friends of the Earth Indonesia; Mobile: +62-8118204362 Email: email@example.com
Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace / Forest Political Campaigner; Mobile: +62-812 2616 1759 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Ian Singleton, Director of Conservation / Sumatran Orangutan Conservation programme. Mobile: +62-811650491 Email email@example.com
For immediate distribution
The much anticipated verdict in the case of PT. Kallista Alam & Former Aceh Governor vsWalhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) will be heard in the Aceh Administration Court tomorrow (03/04/2012).
The case has become subject to international scrutiny over the last week as illegally lit fires blazed a trail of destruction through Orangutan habitat in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest.
In the case of:
Walhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)
Challenging the legality Oil Palm Plantation Permit No. 525/BB2T/5322/2011
Issued by Former Aceh Governor to PT Kallista Alam
The basis of the challenge:
The permit allows the destruction of Tripa’s natural deep peat swamp forests
that are inside the Protected Leuser Ecosystem
Judges verdict is expected 10:00am
Aceh Provincial Administrative Court
Jln. Mohd.Thaher No. 25
10:00am Tuesday April 3rd – 2012
Attendance is invited
DeddyRatih, Walhi / Friends of the Earth Indonesia;
YuyunIndradi, Greenpeace / Forest Political Campaigner;
Mobile:+62-812 2616 1759
The video is a short story of a bigger documentary project Saving Leuser. We need the maximum support not just for Tripa but to save the Leuser ecosystem, the only place in the world that hosts four endangered mega fauna as tigers, rhinos, orangutans, and elephants.
For any kind of comments or ideas to include in the video contact firstname.lastname@example.org or add in facebook by the same mail. Thanks
FROM CORRESPONDENTS IN JAKARTA. From:AFP. March 29, 2012 12:55AM
- The Autralian. Breaking News
CRITICALLY-endangered orangutans in a protected area of Indonesia will be wiped out by the end of the year if land clearing is not stopped, a coalition of environmental groups warned today.
The government must immediately halt the clearance of forest in the 13,000-hectare peat swamps in Tripa, Aceh province, the groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth said.
They also called on the government to investigate the use of fire by palm oil companies for land clearing and reinforce existing laws protecting the ecosystem.
Ian Singleton, conservation director of Swiss-based PanEco, one of the groups making up the Coalition for Protection of Tripa Swamp, said the roughly 200 orangutans left in the peat swamps will be gone in months if the fires continue.
“The speed of destruction, fires, burning and everything has gone up dramatically in the last few weeks, let alone in the last year, and this is obviously a deliberate drive by these companies to clear all the remaining forests,” he said.
“If this is not stopped right now, then all those orangutans, all those forests, will be gone before the end of 2012.”
Experts believe there are about 50,000 to 60,000 of the two species of orangutans left in the wild, 80 per cent of them in Indonesia and the rest in Malaysia.
They are faced with extinction from poaching and the rapid destruction of their forest habitat, driven largely by palm oil and paper plantations.
Most of those left are the endangered Bornean orangutan species. And Singleton said that based on 2004 figures there are only 6600 of the critically-endangered Sumatran orangutans left in North Sumatra and Aceh provinces.
“We suspect that up to 100 orangutans may have perished in forest clearing and peat burning in the last few months in Tripa,” said Graham Usher of local group Foundation of a Sustainable Ecosystem.
Satellite monitoring found at least 87 fire hotspots between March 19 and 24 in three palm oil concessions.
Footage and images captured large clouds of white smoke and patches of burnt peat.
At least 2800 hectares of peat were destroyed in the latest fires, and the number of animals, including Sumatran orangutans, Malayan sun bears and Sumatran tigers that perished was “immeasurable”, the local group added.
Palm oil is a key ingredient in soap and everyday foods ranging from peanut butter to sweets but its cultivation is considered one of the biggest threats to the world’s dwindling rainforests.