Govt punishes APRIL’s business-as-usual practices in peatlands

(foresthints.news) - Joko Widodo’s administration has once again bared its fangs, reaffirming its no-compromise attitude towards any party that commits peatland violations. APRIL - one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies - is no exception when it comes to the President’s hardline stance.

In early October this year, the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry cancelled the newly revised 10-year work plan of an APRIL subsidiary because it was found to contain plans for the expansion of a pulpwood plantation located in the Kampar Peninsula of Sumatra’s Riau province.

The ministry did not stop there. Instead, it subsequently carried out a ground check at the location concerned at the end of November, and discovered that business-as-usual practices have taken place in the concession’s peatlands, including new land clearing and canal development.

“The new pulpwood plantation being developed must be restored. This is the responsibility of the company. A letter to this effect will be sent tomorrow to the owner of APRIL,” San Afri Awang, Chairman of Peat Restoration Monitoring at the ministry, said while detailing the peatland violations committed by the APRIL company at his office on Monday (Dec 5).

Furthermore, he added, acacia that has already been planted in the new pulpwood plantation must be removed and newly-developed canals closed.

These photos demonstrate APRIL’s business-as-usual practices by developing a new pulpwood plantation in peatlands, an action prohibited by the government since early November last year.

Professor San Afri, who also serves as one of the ministry’s director generals, went on to say that the new pulpwood plantation developed by the APRIL company is located in indicative peat domes, which are included in the targeted peat restoration areas issued by the Peat Restoration Agency in mid-September this year.

The Director General took the opportunity to deliver a slight rebuke to the Peat Restoration Agency: “I’m going to invite the peat agency sometime soon to go to the field and take concrete steps on the ground level in line with the duties and functions mandated to them. The place for carrying out peat restoration efforts is in the field, not just on a map.”

Surprising actions

San Afri expressed his surprise at these operations by APRIL, considering that the pulp and paper giant is consistently promoting to the international community that
its sustainability policy has included no peat development since early June 2015.

The Director General was eager to point out APRIL’s hypocrisy: “It turns out that APRIL is still carrying out business-as-usual practices, which actually violate its very own sustainability commitments. In fact, one of the director generals at the ministry was in attendance on behalf of the minister at the event at which APRIL launched its no peat development policy.”

The following two photos illustrate how APRIL’s business-as-usual practices in peatlands also involve the clearing of forested peatlands.

He confirmed that the ministry will step up its intensive monitoring of peatland violations now, given that the President has signed a revised peat regulation that explicitly forbids new land clearing as well as new canal development in peatlands.

Professor San Afri further elaborated on the ministry’s efforts, saying that it was trying to minimize as much as possible the occurrence of new land clearing in peatlands, including new canal development, which lie in concession areas.

“Of course, we don’t want to see a big gap between the government’s ban on any new land clearing in peatlands and the facts on the grounds which prove that the ban is being disobeyed. This is especially true since the ban has now been enshrined in a government regulation.”

The recent signing of a revised regulation on protecting and managing peatland ecosystems by President Joko Widodo clearly shows his unfailing consistency in terms of protecting Indonesia’s peatlands, in particular remaining peatlands which have yet to be developed, as well as restoring its drained peat domes.