Legal measures taken against palm oil company fragmenting peat forests

(foresthints.news) - President’s Joko Widodo administration is continuing to ensure that any peat violations that take place are immediately terminated, including those committed by companies belonging to major palm oil business groups. This time the company linked with peat violations is PT DAS, a subsidiary of the Singapore listed Bumitama Agri Ltd (BGA Group).

This palm oil company has been found to have constructed new canals in the peat forests in its concession area, which previously formed part of the logging concession area of PT MPK. This area was turned into a non-state forest area by the previous government in 2014.

The operations carried out by PT DAS dan PT MPK constitute peat violations as they are associated with new peat development in a peat forest complex, roughly 70% the size of Singapore, which is home to the Bornean orangutan.

Video shows peat violations

The construction of new canals by PT DAS is a flagrant violation of the prohibitions issued by the Joko Widodo administration, and given to the Environment and Forestry Minister, in early November 2015 as a follow up to the President’s directive from a cabinet meeting in which the construction of new canals, including for the development of palm oil plantations, was banned.

In early December last year, the President confirmed his long-term commitment to stopping peat exploitation by signing a revised regulation on peat protection to ensure that a permanent moratorium on new peat development could be put in place.

The following video shows the extent of the peat forest fragmentation as a direct result of the construction of new canals by PT DAS. This violation was conducted from around the middle of last year to the end of the year.

Letter sent to local governments

Due to the peat violations perpetrated by PT DAS, Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya earlier this month sent a letter to the Governor of West Kalimantan ordering him to take appropriate steps and action against the peat violations conducted by PT DAS.

In the letter, which was also forwarded to the regent of Ketapang regency, the minister explained a number of prohibitions set forth in the President’s signature peat regulation, in particular those related to a halt in new peat development.

Furthermore, Minister Siti Nurbaya also wrote that she would soon be implementing law enforcement measures in response to the peat violations in the PT DAS concession.

At the close of the minister’s letter - which was signed by the Ministry’s Law Enforcement Director General Dr Rasio Ridho Sani on behalf of the minister - a review of PT DAS’ permit was demanded.

The following photos demonstrate how new canals constructed by PT DAS have torn apart previously relatively intact peat forest which was one of most important remaining habitats of the Bornean orangutan.

Hope remains

While there are new canals in the peat forests of the PT DAS concession, the bulk of the peat forests in this palm oil concession are still in good shape. Nonetheless, any further new peat development must be stopped, be it by the BGA company or any other third party players.

In her letter, Minister Siti Nurbaya appealed for all parties to jointly heed the prohibitions set forth in the newly-enacted revised government regulation on peat protection.

The following three photos illustrate that as long as there is no further peat development - despite the fact that some canals have already been constructed in the PT DAS palm oil concession - then hope remains that major parts of the peat forests in the concession can be maintained. This means that these peat forests can still play host to the Bornean orangutan.

In the meantime, the peat forests that have yet to be fragmented by new canals in the PT DAS palm oil concession are considered to be extremely valuable Indonesian assets, especially in terms of peatland and wildlife protection.

The following photos depict the situation in the peat forests in the PT DAS palm oil concession that have yet to be fragmented by new canals.

“Everything that has been outlawed in the revised government regulation on peat protection is crystal clear. If anyone dares to infringe on the regulation, they will face strict law enforcement action. With today’s satellite technology, it is very easy to monitor peat violations on a time-series basis,” Minister Siti Nurbaya told foresthints.news (Apr 3) at her office.

Accordingly, she pointed out, it was also easy these days to catch peat violators red-handed, especially those committing peat violations in their concessions.

“There needs to be a common understanding that any party committing peat violations will find no defense or compromise from the President Joko Widodo administration. Essentially, the President does not want to see business-as-usual practices involving peatlands any longer,” the minister explained.