June 26, 2018

Official letter warns Salim Group companies over peat violations

( - The Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry has sent an official letter, classified as important and urgent (Jun 22), to two palm oil companies (PT DRM and PT SKL) affiliated with the Salim Group concerning peat violations they are committing.

The companies, whose concessions lie in West Kalimantan’s Sintang regency, have confirmed that they have received the letter.

The letter, signed by the Ministry’s Secretary General Bambang Hendroyono on behalf of Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, explains the results of the ministry’s spatial monitoring, confirming that land clearing practices - involving parts of a peat protection zone - continue to be carried out by the two palm oil companies concerned.

The letter goes further, warning that the land clearing operations by the two palm oil companies constitute peat violations, and are thus liable to sanction.

As such, the letter outlines the legal obligations that the two palm oil companies need to fulfill in order to ensure legal compliance. Most notably, these pertain to the requirement that the companies compile and submit a peat ecosystem recovery plan to the ministry. 

“The essence of the letter is aimed at putting an end to new peat development without delay, while making certain that peat recovery efforts are also immediately implemented in the two palm oil concessions,” Bambang explained to (Jun 25) at the ministry building.

“After the release of this letter,” he added, “the ministry’s law enforcement team also conducted an on-site inspection of the two palm oil concessions as the basis for any subsequent moves against peat violations taking place there.” 

Below are photos taken during this ground-check inspection (Jun 26) which show the level of peat drainage recently carried out in one of the concessions (PT SKL). This included the removal of peat forests in the concession.   

Bambang went on to say that the letter - which was forwarded to the Minister of Agriculture, the Governor of West Kalimantan, and the Regent of Sintang - reminded the companies of four practices banned under a revised government regulation signed by President Joko Widodo in early December 2016.

These prohibited practices, which are part of an overall ban on new peat ecosystem development, specifically refer to no peat drainage, no peat fires and no peat ecosystem destruction. 

“The letter also reaffirmed the need to conduct inspections of ongoing land-based peat governance efforts. As directed by the President, this is required to prevent the occurrence of forest and land fires,” the secretary general pointed out.

The recent removal of peat forests in the Salim group palm oil concessions, which were subsequently drained, is seen in the following photos from the ministry’s on-site investigation, clearly highlighting the extent of the peat violations.

PT DRM and PT SKL are not the first companies against which the Environment and Forestry Ministry has moved for committing peat violations.

As earlier reported by (Jun 25), the GAMA palm oil company PT GAN was hit with a strict sanction from Minister Siti Nurbaya due to 10 violations, some of which are associated with a lack of legal compliance on peat-related matters. 

Prior to that, as also reported by (Apr 19), two palm oil companies under the Ciliandry Angki Abadi group (CAA) had strict sanctions imposed on them as well, by which they were compelled to halt violations in the peat ecosystem.   

“Our minister is continuing to ensure that intensive efforts aimed at peat protection and management remain underway, so as to improve peat governance and to prevent fires starting in peat ecosystems,” the Ministry’s Secretary General emphasized.

“According to recent ministry data, at least 170 palm companies are in the process of conducting peat ecosystem recovery efforts and remain under inspection by the ministry. This number is sure to rise. In fact, they will soon be followed by another 30 palm oil companies which are still in the legal approval stage,” he said in conclusion.