September 28, 2012|Reuters
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s Aceh province has revoked a controversial permit issued to a palm oil firm accused of breaching a ban on forest clearing, a spokesman said on Friday, in a rare climbdown following a legal challenge by environmental groups.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by saving Indonesia’s dwindling tropical rainforests, the world’s third-largest, a pledge that won the promise of $1 billion from Norway should he succeed.
But the effort is being hampered by soaring global demand for palm oil, used in everything from biscuits to biofuel. Indonesia is the world’s top producer of the edible oil, whose exports earn the country $20 billion a year.
Last year, the governor of Aceh breached a two-year ban on issuing permits to log and convert forests by giving permission for PT Kallista Alam develop 1,605 hectares (4,000 acres) of swamp, which includes protected peatlands.
The Aceh governor’s move prompted legal action from environmental groups and probes by the police and government bodies, which led to the permit being revoked this week.
A spokesman for the Aceh province said the permit had been revoked on Thursday, and notification sent to Kallista Alam.
“It is important that there is rule of law in business and investing in Aceh, which provides benefits to the community,” Muhammad Zulfikar, director of the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), said in a statement.
Officials of PT Kallista Alam could not immediately be reached for comment.
Former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf issued the permit to open 1,605 hectares of land for palm oil in the Tripa peatland area in August last year.
In the last few years, Indonesia has seen rapid growth in production of palm oil, with output this year expected to be between 23 million and 25 million metric tons (27.6 million tons), with around 18 million metric tons exported.
(Reporting by Reza Munawir in Aceh; Writing by Michael Taylor; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
Smoke rising from several spots scattered throughout more than 61,000 hectares of carbon-rich Tripa peat swamp forests in Nagan Raya regency, Aceh, could be easily seen from a Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft flying low above the area on Thursday last week.
Onboard the airplane were a number of top officials from agencies tasked with investigating a case involving palm oil company PT Kallista Alam, which was alleged to be responsible for the fires that have threatened the ecosystem of about 200 orangutans living in the area.
The case also caught the attention of the global community and has tainted the reputation of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has only recently returned from the Rio +20 Summit where he touted his green initiatives, which include programs like a moratorium on deforestation.
A petition signed by concerned individuals from around the world, questioning the Indonesian government’s ability to halt the environmental destruction at Tripa, have prompted the authorities to take action.
The police, the Environment Ministry and the Forestry Ministry are all on the case, with the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) pushing for action.
The UKP4’s visit to the site was part of a move to examine the situation on the ground and collect evidence against the palm oil company.
Technicalities in the law, however, have hamstrung the investigation.
Aerial photographs of the Tripa peat swamp, for example, cannot be used as evidence by the investigation team.
“Based on the Information and Transaction Law, photographs can be only be used as evidence if they are backed up by an official report from the investigation and direct [confirmation and] testimonies from employees from the company who joined the trip,” the Environment Ministry’s investigation division head, Shaifuddin Akbar, said at the Cut Nyak Dien airport in Nagan Raya last week after wrapping up the aerial inspection. PT Kallista Alam’s employees were unavailable to take part in the task force’s investigative fly-over.
Akbar added that the team also had conducted a ground check to complete their investigative report.
Environment Ministry’s head investigator Sudariyono said that his team found strong indications that PT Kallista Alam, had deliberately burned the peat swamp to convert the area to an oil palm plantation.
“First, an aerial view showed a pattern to the burning of the forest, a strong indication that it was planned. Second, we could see that the company had done nothing to put out the fire, let alone implement preventive measures against fire. We found no personnel or fire fighting equipment stationed in the area.
Sudariyono said that all offenses were found in peatland protected by a governmental regulation.
“Our ground check found that Rawa Tripa was a peatland with a depth of three meters or more, meaning that it is protected under a 1990 presidential decree,” Sudariyono said.
He said that the investigation team was expected to file a criminal and civil suit against PT Kallista Alam and seek damages for causing environmental destruction in the area.
National Police director for special crimes Brig. Gen. Gatot Subiyaktoro said that preliminary findings indicated that the company had violated Law No. 18/2004 on plantations by conducting illegal land clearing, burning land and planting oil palms without permits.
He added that the police also found irregularities in the issuance of the plantation’s permit.
Then Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf granted the permit to the company on Aug. 25, 2011, contradicting Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on the moratorium for new permits in primary forests and peatland
Gatot said that Irwandi, who recently lost the local election in April to Zaini Abdullah, likely broke the law by overstepping his legal authority, as the issuance of such permit only needed approval from a regent.
“To pursue our investigation, we will question experts on plantation and state administration soon,” Gatot said.
The UKP4 has recommended PT Kallista Alam’s permit be revoked.
Representatives from several NGOs, including the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Aceh Legal Aid Institute, Wetlands International as well as representatives from the Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority (BPKEL), have demanded the government shut down drainage canals in Tripa peatswamp that were used by the company to drain the peat in order to prevent further degradation of the peatland.
The Tripa peat swamp was included in the Forestry Ministry’s latest “Indicative Moratorium Map” of 65,282,006 hectares of natural forests and peatland that are considered off-limits for commercial activities.
The map serves as a guideline for local administrations when issuing licenses for forest clearance for commercial purposes.
THE carbon-rich peat forests of northern Sumatra are burning again as palm oil companies break Indonesian law to clear the land for their plantations.
Environmental groups have warned that the local population of critically endangered orang-utans are ”doomed” unless the fires are stopped.
Also, smoke from the burning is at times engulfing cities in Malaysia and Thailand, prompting doctors in Kuala Lumpur recently to warn residents with respiratory problems to wear masks.
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Photographs from the Tripa peat forest in Aceh show widespread burning, which the head investigator of the Indonesian environment ministry, Syarifudin Akbar, estimates now covers almost 2000 hectares.
”This is a criminal case because the law says it’s a crime to open a land by burning,” Mr Akbar told the Herald.
Local environmentalists say the fires are lit by palm oil companies and threaten a population of about 200 orang-utans in this area – one of the densest populations in the world.
More than 3000 of the great apes once lived in the area that is being cleared. Now just 7000 live on the whole island of Sumatra, which has been hit in recent years with uncontrolled clearing of primary forests for palm oil plantations.
The latest fires were detected by satellites monitoring fire activity last week, and confirmed by field staff from local environmental groups.
The environment department, the national police and the government’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) taskforce are investigating.
A spokesman for the REDD taskforce, Achmad Santosa, agreed the forest burning was ”an issue of law enforcement” and that it was ”exactly the job of the REDD taskforce, that is to ensure the enforcement of the law”.
The head of the REDD taskforce, Kuntoro, visited Aceh yesterday to speak to the governor and check the situation on the ground.
But Kamaruddin, a lawyer for the Tripa community, said the investigations now under way were ”proving to be too little too late”, and called for the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to get involved.
”These companies simply have to be ordered to stop [clearing] immediately and that order to be strictly enforced, otherwise the peat forests and inhabitants of Tripa will be lost forever,” he said.
Dr Yudhoyono has won global applause for pro-conservation statements, the most recent at the Rio+20 summit, where he said: ”deforestation is a thing of the past” and that ”losing our tropical rainforests would constitute the ultimate national, global and planetary disaster”.
But this has not stopped the annual ”burning season” of forests in Borneo and Sumatra – nor the smoke haze over Asia – as companies take advantage of dry weather to prepare the ground for new plantations.
”Despite all these words and statements and speeches about conserving orang-utans and peat lands and reducing carbon emissions … the evidence is there has been no change,” said the director of conservation at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, Ian Singleton.
Part of the area being burnt is owned by the palm oil company PT Kallista Allam, which was granted a concession now under challenge in the Indonesian courts. The former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf said he had granted the concession as a wake-up call to the international community over its inaction on a carbon pricing mechanism in Indonesian forests.
However, a company spokesman told the Herald that the fire had blown into their area from a neighbouring concession.
The owner of that land, PT Agro Maju Raya, could not be contacted.
- Illegal Indonesian fires threaten great apes (smh.com.au)
- Sumatra burns in palm oil rush (smh.com.au)
- Fires threaten to ‘extinguish’ critical Indonesian orangutan population (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Tripa continues to burn as President Yudhoyono to give global policy address on future of Indonesia’s forests (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
As Indonesia’s president talks of “sustainable growth with equity”, Tripa continues to burn | REDD Monitor
By Chris Lang, 13th June 2012
Today, Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is giving a policy address at CIFOR on the theme “Forests in the Future We Want”. He’s painting a rosy picture of the way Indonesia has addressed the problems that the forest sector caused in the past.
Yes, you read that correctly. The problems are in the past, according to Yudhoyono. “Environmental sustainability is at the heart of all long term plans,” Yudhoyono said. In his speech, he mentioned “sustainable growth with equity.” Exactly what this has to do with Indonesia’s booming coal mining sector is anyone’s guess.
Last week, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo met Yudhoyono. He invited him to go on Greenpeace’s new Rainbow Warrior ship while he’s at the Rio +20 meeting in Brazil. But, Naidoo decided not to remind the President of the uncomfortable truth of Indonesia’s continued deforestation. After the meeting, Naidoo said that,
“Greenpeace had a cordial and constructive meeting with the President. We remain committed to working with the Indonesian government to advance our joint goals of environmental protection and poverty alleviation… Greenpeace supports the existing forest moratorium and in our meeting we called on the President to extend it, and ensure it delivers on its intention of protecting Indonesia’s forests and the people who depend on it for their survival.”
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s forests continue to burn. Today, the Coalition to Save Tripa Peat Forest put out a press release about the continued destruction of peat swamp forests in Tripa, Aceh Province.
Tripa continues to burn as President Yudhoyono to give global policy address on future of Indonesia’s forests
Press Release 13/06/12
From: Coalition to Save Tripa Peat Forest
[Tripa – Aceh Province – Indonesia] A field team from the Coalition to Save Tripa Peat Swamp Forest visit in Indonesia’s Tripa Peat Forest has unearthed alarming evidence of fires continuing to be lit and burn 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.
Satellite information led the focus of the team to the eastern region in the 60,000 hectare Tripa Peat Forest, where fire hotspot alerts had recorded another increase in burning activity. Upon entering the area the ground team discovered fresh burns scars, and smouldering ashes from recently lit fires, and new fires being lit around 6.30pm yesterday evening.
“This is blatantly breaching Indonesian law” Said Dr Ian Singleton, Conservation director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. “Despite the joint Investigation currently taking place by the Ministry of Environment and the National Police, in areas right across Tripa, and indeed Indonesia, the National Laws continue to be flaunted.
“While a small area of Tripa has been returned to the moratorium map, there are 5 palm oil concessions in Tripa operating illegally inside the protected Leuser Ecosystem, yet only 2 of them are being investigated, and even in these destruction continues on the ground with drainage canals still drying the peat swamp.” Dedy Raith, Forest Campaigner for WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia explained, “The Ministry of Environment and National Police team needs to increase the scope to of the investigation to include all concessions and the full 60,000 hectares of Tripa.“
“The full path of the destruction of Tripa must be followed, to identify the responsible parties who allowed this to happen, and full legal prosections carried out. This is a very simple case. In August 2011 a permit was issued by the hand of former Aceh Governor Irwandi to palm oil company PT Kalista Alam to convert 1,605 hectares of protected peat forest into palm oil. The issuing of this permit very clearly breaches National Spatial planning law 26/2007, leaving both mentioned parties criminally liable. From the outset, the violation was clear for all to see. Pak Kuntoro has already labelled the concession illegal, return this small aspect of Tripa to REDD Moritorium map and demanded PT Kalista Alam restore any forest it has already damaged”. Explained Kamaruddin, the Acehnese Lawyer representing the community of Tripa.
“Sudariyono, the Indonesian Environmental Ministry’s head of law enforcement unit, recently said “We will investigate if the company have properly conducted an Amdal [environmental impact analysis] or has other environmental permits,”
“Yet, this investigation must include all companies operating inside the Tripa Peat Forests, protected by National Spatial Planning Law 26/2007. All companies in Tripa must be reviewed because each operation has indicated a degree of legal violation, which again is highlighted again by the fires burning today. To review all Amdal processes is simple and standard legal procedure, believe should result in prosecution of all parties responsible for violation of Indonesia law.” Kamaruddin concluded.
“Tripa is an important part of the the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the worlds most important conservation areas, home to Sumatran Orangutans, Rhinos, Elephants, Tigers and a whole host of other wildlife, there should be no permits and no destruction of this iconic and globally important area, it’s very clearly against Indonesian Law, it is protected by National Strategic Planning Law 26/2007, and Government Regulation 26/2008. Moratoriums may come and go, but it is National Spatial Planning that must be adhered to for the forests of Indonesia to have any chance of survival“ concluded Dr Singleton.
For further media comment or interview, please contact:
Dr Ian Singleton, Director of Conservation / Sumatran Orangutan Conservation programme
Deddy Ratih, Forest Campaigner, WALHI / Friends of the Earth Indonesia
- Tripa continues to burn as President Yudhoyono to give global policy address on future of Indonesia’s forests (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
“We are in coordination with the Coordination Agency of National Survey and Mapping, National Land Agency and Ministry of Agriculture in the compilation of this revision. We collected issued permits and licenses before the Presidential Instruction was published,” said Bambang Soepijanto, Director of Urban Design of the Ministry of Forestry on Saturday (19/5) in Jakarta.
The areas in the moratorium maps changes in numbers. When all data are collected and mapped, Bambang continued, the areas of primary natural and peat forest, on which no existing permit, will be identified.
Separately, the Head of the Moratorium Monitoring Working Group of the Task Force REDD+, Tjokorda Nirarta Samadhi, said that the map has initially only used data from the Ministry of Forestry. In November 2011, through the inclusion of data from other agencies, the first revision of the moratorium map was established.
According to Nirarta, each point of changes within the second revision would be marked with description on how it has changed. “So it will be traceable, why it has changed and based on what, e.g. permit of what number for the particular area,” he said.
Condition of Peatlands
The second revision would include data from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. The second revision would reduce the amount of peatlands of 49,000 ha based on various land use scheme. Ground verification identified an increase on the amount of protected/conservation areas of 500,000 ha.
Nirarta requested the public for not to stick on numbers, since the numbers can change based on the synchronisation and on cross checking between ministries.
“Don’t just look at the numbers but at the process of the compilation of the numbers. Through this moratorium map, each ministry is connected and communicate to each other even by heavy argument and hard discussion. I expect that here there is a standard procedure for the issuance of permits,” he said.
- The Case of Tripa Peat Swamp: Entry Point To Revision Of Moratorium Map | KOMPAS (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Ministry of Foresty Sent Letter To Aceh Governor Re Tripa Peat Swamp | KOMPAS (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Next Week, Hearing of Witnesses | KOMPAS (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Forests remain under threat from acquisitive industries | The Jakarta Post (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Suspect In The Case of Tripa Peat Swamp Subject to Criminal and Civil Lawsuit | KOMPAS (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
Indonesia Investigating Palm Oil Companies Over Forest Fires
Ahmad Pathoni | May 15, 2012 | The Jakarta Globe
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.