Peat agency delivers zero action in hardest-hit concession, videos show

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - A shared video, portraying the results of the on-the-ground monitoring conducted by Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry in November last year, provides evidence that Indonesia’s Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) has failed to deliver any peat restoration measures in the vast burned peat areas located in the concession belonging to a subsidiary of pulp and paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), PT BAP.

PT BAP’s concession is situated in Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency in the province of South Sumatra, one of four designated peat restoration priority regencies.

This is the third reporting compiled by foresthints.news which looks at the efforts and progress made by the peat agency over 2016 with respect to its primary mandate of restoring 2015's burned peatlands.

Facts on the ground don’t lie

“The peat agency should really have a look at the facts on the ground. Take a look at these PT BAP videos for example. There was no action from them whatsoever over the whole of last year. Later I will share some more videos indicating that no peat restoration efforts were undertaken by the peat agency in concession areas in 2016,” lamented Professor San Afri Awang, a member of the peat agency’s steering team, when talking to foresthints.news on Tuesday (Jan 10).

The following video and photos derive from the ministry’s monitoring of PT BAP and illustrate parts of its concession which have yet to be cleared and replanted with acacia. Instead, acacia trees are growing wildly in these areas, which is clearly not what was intended by the peat agency’s task of revegetating burned peatlands.

From the photos above, it is blatantly obvious that no peat restoration steps were taken by the peat agency in 2016, just as the peat agency’s steering member alleged.

He stressed that the peat agency had been naïve in not carrying out any peat restoration efforts at all in PT BAP’s concession, which suffered the greatest amount of burned peatlands in 2015, last year.

While the video and photos above depict 2015's burned peatlands in the PT BAP concession that are yet to be cleared for replanting acacia purposes, the video and photos below show the burned peatlands in the APP concession which have in fact been cleared and replanted with acacia.

The ground situation involving 2015's burned peatlands in the giant pulp concession - both those which have already been replanted with acacia and those which haven't - clearly illustrates that the peat agency has not taken any action on the ground, according to San Afri, who also serves as one of the director generals at the ministry.

"The peat agency is clearly not prioritizing the restoration of 2015's burned peatlands found in concession areas. If PT BAP's concession, which contains the greatest area of burned peatlands, has been found not to have been touched for restoration by the peat agency, what about all the others?" he bemoaned.

No action on the ground

Based on the peat agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration map, more than 62,000 hectares of peatlands were burned in the BAP concession, more than any other company whose concession areas contained peatlands ravaged by the catastrophic fires.

In early December last year, the Environment and Forestry Minister ordered the company to remove all its newly-replanted acacia with immediate effect. Making matters worse, major parts of the concession also consisted of drained peat domes, most of which were also burned in 2015.

What’s more, the peat restoration plan for OKI regency has yet to be completed by the peat agency and is only scheduled to be finalized by April this year, according to a statement from Peat Restoration Peat Agency Chief Nazir Foead (Jan 7).

In mid-November last year, the peat agency issued a circular letter to pulpwood companies instructing them not to replant the burned peatlands scattered among their concessions.

This letter was issued after the results of spatial monitoring conducted by the ministry, showing the extensive exploitation of burned peatlands spread over concession areas, were presented to the peat agency.

Despite this, the ministry - with reference to the results of its on-the-ground checks - came to the conclusion that there was no evidence of any peat restoration action taken in 2015’s burned peatlands located in the concession areas concerned, including in the PT BAP concession. Put simply, the peat agency has done nothing on the ground.

Assignments without plan

In reaction to the ministry’s peat restoration monitoring findings, which indicated a complete lack of peat restoration efforts in the concession areas, particularly in burned peatlands, the peat agency appointed some companies to undertake their own peat restoration efforts, as an initial phase in the process, in late December 2016. One of these companies was PT BAP.

In fact, the peat agency’s assignment of these companies to restore their own burned and damaged peatlands, including drained peat domes, merely serves to back the assertion, based on the ministry’s monitoring findings, that zero peat restoration efforts have been made by the peat agency in the concession areas.

Furthermore, the legal facts indicate that these assignments were not followed by the provision of a peat restoration plan which the peat agency had been required to prepare. As such, the assignment of certain companies to do their own peat restoration was not based on any peat agency peat restoration plan.

It can be considered fortunate that the ministry performed monitoring and, as a consequence of which, the minister sent out a letter instructing APP companies to get rid of the newly-replanted acacia in the burned peatlands in their concessions. Without these moves, there would have been no measures on the ground from the government.

As it turns out, according to the ministry’s spatial and ground check monitoring, peat restoration efforts undertaken by the peat agency last year in the burned peatlands of concession areas basically amounted to nothing. Adding insult to injury, even the agency’s restoration efforts in burned peatlands found in non-concession areas were extremely limited.