APP under the spotlight as another company found replanting burned peatlands

(foresthints.news) - After revealing how a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), PT BAP, carried out land preparation and the replanting of acacia in last year’s burned peatlands, Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry has also now demonstrated that another APP company, PT BMH, whose concession is located adjacent to PT BAP’s, also conducted the same practices, which have been prohibited by the government since mid-December last year.

Both these APP pulpwood concessions are situated in the regency of Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI), which is one of the peat restoration priority regencies designated by President Joko Widodo in January this year in a bid to accelerate the restoration of peatlands in the wake of last year’s serious and widespread fires.

“The results of the ground-check at PT BMH once again show that seemingly there were no peat restoration efforts made in this concession, just like with PT BAP. These two APP companies continue to carry out their business-as-usual practices in burned peatlands,” explained San Afri Awang, the Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance at the ministry, at a gathering called to expose the exploitative practices of the APP companies in burned peatlands at the ministry complex (Nov 17).

These photos shown by the DG illustrate the extent of the land preparation in last year's burned peatlands in the APP pulpwood concession PT BMH for the replanting of acacia.

The Director General pointed out that the steps being taken by the environment and forestry ministry form part of the peat restoration monitoring operation officially ordered by the minister earlier this month (Nov 4).

As the Head of the Monitoring Taskforce, he confirmed that similar monitoring - aimed at checking the compliance of companies with respect to peat restoration on the ground level -would continue to be performed, and not only in OKI regency.

“We are not only monitoring in OKI, but monitoring in this regency is crucial because most of the burned peatland in this peat restoration priority regency is found in APP pulpwood concessions.”

Ground-check locations

The Director General also showed the locations of the ground-check of last year’s burned peatlands conducted in the PT BMH concession.

“The locations in which the ground-check was performed are those locations where, according to their own data and that of the ministry, last year’s peatland fires took place. As it turns out, while doing the ground-check we discovered that the burned peatlands have been used for land preparation and turned into replanted acacia blocks,” he said with a tone of indignation.

Last year's burned peatlands have been turned into a stretch of replanted acacia by the APP company PT BMH. According to the Director General, this was completely avoidable if the operations of the giant pulp company had complied with existing regulations.

Professor San Afri stressed that APP’s operations must immediately cease any land preparation and replanting of acacia in burned peatlands, including in drained peat domes after the harvesting of acacia has been completed.

He added that a letter has been sent to the owners of APP inviting them to the ministry's office so that they can give a legally-based explanation of the operations of the two APP companies which have been found to be continually exploiting burned peatlands.

The Director General did not relent in his hardline approach: “Our ministry completely refuses to tolerate any land preparation and replanting of acacia in burned peatlands carried out by these companies.”