APRIL subsidiary’s concession suspended as authorities await revised work plan

(foresthints.news) - Chief of Indonesia's Peat Restoration Agency, Nazir Foead, has said that the pulpwood concession belonging to PT RAPP, a subsidiary of APRIL, which operates on Pulau Padang, a small island in Sumatra’s Riau province, must revise its 10-year work plan with immediate effect.

“PT RAPP has to designate the peat domes found in its concession as protection zones, and this needs to be incorporated into the 10-year work plan of the company,” Nazir told foresthints.news on Friday (Sep 9) in Jakarta.

“By referring to data from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, we have identified indicative peat domes located in this concession. In line with the instruction of the President, these peat domes have to be included in protection zones in the revised work plan of the company,” he explained.

Nazir pointed out that the Environment and Forestry Minister, Dr Siti Nurbaya, has asked the peat agency to take swift action by ensuring that the peat domes spread throughout the pulpwood concession of APRIL's subsidiary are included in protection zones.

“Next week, we will deliver our technical recommendations to the ministry on the distribution of indicative peat domes in PT RAPP’s concessions, especially those on Pulau Padang, as well as a copy to the company itself. These technical recommendations will form the basis for establishing protection zones as part of the process for revising the work plan of this pulpwood company.”

A spatial assessment performed by the peat agency shows the extent of indicative peat domes that have already been planted with acacia to serve as plantation fiber for the giant pulp and paper company is hugely significant.

According to the peat agency data, about 65% of the roughly 34,000 hectares that make up the Pulau Padang pulpwood concession can be classified as indicative peat domes. Out of the area occupied by these indicative peat domes, 57% has been allocated for acacia plantation blocks, most of which has already been planted with acacia.

“This doesn’t take into account the indicative peat domes situated in community livelihood blocks which have also been cleared by the company to plant acacia. If we were to include that, the proportion of indicative peat domes already planted with acacia would be even greater,” explained Nazir.

After this acacia is harvested, he continued, PT RAPP is not allowed to replant acacia again in the locations of peat domes.

“They must re-vegetate these areas with peatland plants. This forms part of the restoration process of the peat domes. This also forms part of the process of phasing out peat domes from the pulp and paper business.”

Nazir emphasized that the peat agency is still giving the company an opportunity to verify the degree of accuracy of indicative peat dome data according to the government version. However, he added, this verification process must take place quickly, and the company mustn’t try to buy time.

“Our target, before the end of the year, is for the revised PT RAPP work plan to be completed,” he asserted.

It is not only peat domes that have to be included in protection zones in the revised work plan of the pulpwood concession. Nazir gave a reminder of this, pointing out that existing protection zones previously established in the concession also have to be maintained as protection zones.

The Peat Agency Chief went on to say that landscape level peat restoration would take place on the island of Pulau Padang, which falls into the regency of Kepulauan Meranti. This is one of the peat restoration priority regencies designated by President Jokowi in early January.

“This landscape level peat restoration will definitely involve local communities. The restoration of peat domes distributed throughout the PT RAPP pulpwood concession on Pulau Padang is one of our most important priorities.”

This Google Earth image indicates the distribution of indicative peat domes located in the APRIL's Pulau Padang pulpwood concession which have to be included in protection zones.

This Google Earth image shows indicative peat domes which have been turned into acacia plantation in APRIL’s pulpwood concession on Pulau Padang.

Provisional suspension

Meanwhile, Secretary General of the Environment and Forestry, Dr Bambang Hendroyono, has confirmed that the operations of the pulpwood concession on Pulau Padang have been provisionally suspended.

“The decision to provisionally suspend the operations of the PT RAPP pulpwood concession on Pulau Padang has been made. It will be in effect while we wait for the map on the distribution of protected peat areas in this concession,” he declared in a written statement received by foresthints.news on Friday (Sep 9).

The Secretary General reiterated that the APRIL subsidiary is not permitted to clear, drain or open new canals in its concession on Pulau Padang.

These stringent measures taken by the ministry and the peat agency reflect the fast response that the Jokowi administration is seeking to make when it comes to reports from local communities about recent peatlands violations committed by the APRIL subsidiary.