January 14, 2019

APP re-drains recovering peatlands for acacia expansion

(foresthints.news) - Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest vertically-integrated pulp and paper producers, has been found to have exploited recovering peatlands, which were previously drained by the company more than a decade ago, for pulpwood expansion.

The practice of re-draining these recovering peatlands was carried out by PT Arara Abadi, an APP-owned company, whose pulpwood concession lies in Riau’s Siak regency on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. 

With regard to this case, APP’s International Media Relations Global Communications Division told foresthints.news(Jan 11) that the re-drained recovering peatlands are not part of high carbon stock (HCS) areas.

The Planet Explorer images below, analyzed by the foresthints.news spatial team, show the recovering peatlands which have been re-drained by the APP company.

“This area was an ex-planted area in which the original planted acacia had poor growth and was of low quality. As such, PT Arara Abadi operations have decided to replant the acacia,” APP confirmed.

At the same time, APP claimed that these peatlands, which have been undergoing a recovery process for longer than a decade, were not classified as HCS areas (filled with shrubs).

Land cover situation before re-draining 

The foresthints.news spatial team has uncovered a set of spatial evidence demonstrating that peat forest clearing and draining was previously done by the APP company in the concerned areas from 2002. 

During the course of more than a decade, however, these re-drained peatlands had been recovering naturally with their land cover also changing into regenerating peat forests. Nonetheless, APP took the decision to re-drain the peatlands which it insists are not HCS areas.

Parts of the recovering peat areas (delineated in yellow) prior to being re-drained by the APP company are portrayed separately in the following three Google Earth images (July 2015) in which the land cover situation is clearly visible. 

It is clear to see that the peat forests which were drained more than a decade ago had been recovering, as evidenced by the land cover displayed above depicting the situation around three years before the re-draining by PT Arara Abadi. 

It should be noted that the land cover situation in the area would certainly have been even better in the months before the re-draining by the APP company began in March 2018 than that in 2015. 

Had they not been re-drained, the recovering peatlands in question would have served as an example of a natural peat recovery process, epitomizing the Indonesian government's legal adoption of natural peat recovery as part of its protection efforts for degraded peatlands. 

This is the first news report on this case. Subsequent reports by foresthints.news will be forthcoming on the operations of the APP company which is not merely re-draining the recovering peatlands, but is also involved in the clearing and draining of the location's forested peatlands.