New report urges APRIL to relinquish peat domes from its fiber-supply chain

(foresthints.news) - A newly-released report from Greenomics Indonesia calls on Indonesian pulp & paper company Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (APRIL) to reprioritize USD 100 million that it has promised to invest in a peat restoration program. These funds were initially allocated for the restoration of around 150,000 hectares of peatland on APRILs Ecosystem Restoration concessions in Sumatras Riau Province.

This appeal comes in the wake of the release of indicative data from the Peat Hydrological Unit of Indonesias Environment and Forestry Ministry demonstrating that over 200,000 hectares of concessions (almost three times the size of Singapore) in Riau, belonging to APRIL and its long-term supply partners, comprise peat domes.

Alarmingly, more than half of these 200,000 hectares has been planted with acacia to supply fiber to an APRIL mill in the province, while the remainder has been designated as conservation areas.

We believe that the investment needs to prioritize the restoration of the some 100,000 hectares of peat domes that have been planted with acacia. This figure excludes acacia-planted peatland that does not consist of peat domes, the report states.

The Greenomics report comes shortly after several civil society and environmental organizations made announcements urging that the planting and harvesting of acacia in peat domes be stopped, and the species replaced by plants more suited to a peatland environment. This is echoed by the report which demands that APRIL and its suppliers remove acacia plantations from the peat domes in their concessions without delay.

The report goes further still, calling for peat domes blighted by acacia to be restored using the USD 100 million earmarked for peatland restoration and for all operations on acacia plantation blocks in what seem to be peat domes to be terminated.

No matter how extensive the indicative peat domes that have been planted with acacia by APRIL and its suppliers are, APRIL is nevertheless under an obligation to restore them, including through the harnessing of APRILs USD 100 million peat restoration investment.

Revision of plans essential

The Greenomics report, which used data overlaid with Google Earth-based time-series images to illustrate acacia plantations that seem to be situated in peat domes, declares that there is an obvious need for peat domes, rather than to be planted with acacia as a source of fiber, to be placed into protection zones as part of restoration efforts. This, the reports claims, applies not only to pulpwood concessions belonging to APRIL.

Of course, this issue does not only involve APRIL's supply chain, but also the supply chains of other business groups, such as Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). What APRIL and its suppliers now need to do is to designate the acacia plantation blocks that include peat domes as protection zones in their operating plans when the cultivation and protection zone maps are published by the Environment and Forestry Ministry and the Peat Restoration Agency later.

A master plan for peat dome restoration

According to the Greenomics report, it is crucial for APRIL to concentrate on putting together a master plan for the restoration of peat domes that have been converted into acacia plantations. Such a plan should also include the concessions of its long-term suppliers and could use the very same indicative data used for the report as a reference.

The comprehensive master plan that needs to be prepared by APRIL should set out a total restoration process for all of its acacia plantations that are located on peatland, regardless of the depth. However, the restoration of peat domes located in acacia plantation blocks must be accorded first priority.

The report encourages APRIL to demonstrate that it takes its responsibilities seriously by essentially getting rid of, and not replanting, acacia in the concessions where peat domes are located throughout its supply chain, and then restoring the peat domes concerned.

The report concludes by stating that APRIL's Stakeholder Advisory Committee should advise APRIL to prioritize the restoration of peat domes situated within the acacia plantation blocks belonging to it and its suppliers and refrain from replanting acacia in these acacia plantation blocks.

Last but not least, the report demands that swift and decisive action be taken against the APRIL supplier (PT SRL) for violating the terms of its license suspension by continuing to harvest acacia in acacia plantation blocks that contain indicative peat domes.

The level of APRILs commitment to relinquishing peat domes from its fiber-supply chain and setting them aside as conservation blocks will clearly need to be monitored, particularly after the publication of the definitive cultivation and protection zone maps.

Meanwhile, in its response to the Greenomics report (Jun 10), APRIL did not touch on the substance or details of the report. Instead, the pulp and paper business group only confirmed that it had received the report and appreciated the recommendations included in it, adding that it always appreciates any input from various stakeholders, including Greenomics.

In its response, APRIL also committed to maintaining the integrity of 250 thousand hectares of high conservation value forest (HCVF) areas located in its concessions and those of its suppliers (joint ventures / joint operations). This, however, contradicts another Greenomics report which revealed the involvement of APRIL in clearing parts of the HCVF areas.