Sanction imposed on APRIL for 2016 peat fires yet to be lifted

(foresthints.news) - A pulpwood concession estate belonging to Singapore-based giant pulp conglomerate APRIL has been hit with an administrative sanction by the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry as a result of peat fires which took place in 2016.

This administrative sanction imposed on PT RAPP, the APRIL-owned company concerned, took effect at the beginning of November last year. The estate incurring this sanction is called Pulau Padang estate, which covers an area almost half the size of Singapore, located in Kepulauan Meranti regency, in Sumatra’s Riau province.

“This sanction is still in force and has yet to be lifted. There is still one more condition that has yet to be met by PT RAPP,” Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, Director of Oversight Complaints and Administrative Sanctions in Law Enforcement of the ministry, told foresthints.news (Mar 14).

She added that almost all the conditions set forth by the ministry had been fulfilled by the APRIL company by the end of last year. “This week, we are aiming for the company to report on the one condition that it has yet to meet,” said Vivien.

The sanction obliged the APRIL company to stop all its operations in 2016's burned peat areas, and also required it to hand these burned peat areas over to the government.

“These two stipulations have already been met by PT RAPP. They have expressed their readiness in a letter to the ministry to fulfill these two stipulations,” Vivien explained.

The following two photos derive from a field inspection carried out by the ministry following last year’s peat fires in the Pulau Padang estate.

The administrative sanction handed down by the government also included a demand that the APRIL company make a public apology through the national mass media.

Vivien pointed out that PT RAPP did issue such a public apology through a national media outlet last November.

Not just about peat fires

Besides being a response to last year's peat fires in the APRIL company’s pulpwood concession, the sanction was also imposed because the forest and land fire facilities and infrastructure in the concession were found to be inadequate.

This naturally came as a great surprise to the authorities, given the nature of 2015's devastating peat fires. Nonetheless, this situation too has been dealt with by the APRIL company, as explained by Vivien. “This stipulation has also been met by the company. Actually, violations of this kind should not happen for a giant pulp company like APRIL.”

However, there were other factors behind the decision of the ministry to impose the sanction on the APRIL company.

Another crucial consideration in applying the sanction was that the giant paper company does not perform toxic and hazardous waste management in the estate according to the standards set forth in Indonesia's laws and regulations. This led to a demand that the company review its environmental documents.

“The company also has to revise its environmental documents. This is the one condition that has yet to be finalized and the reason why the sanction has yet to be lifted,” Vivien spelled out.

In early October last year, the Environment and Forestry Minister annulled PT RAPP’s 10-year work plan as the APRIL company was carrying out new peat development in Riau's Kampar Peninsula landscape.

Furthermore, in early December last year, the minister also issued a letter ordering the removal of all acacia recently planted by the APRIL company in peat violation areas in the estate.

President Joko Widodo has, on several occasions, reiterated that his administration is unwilling to make any compromises for anyone associated with peat fires, including and especially those committing peat violations.