VIDEO: Monitoring finds seriously burned peatland in Leuser Ecosystem, prompting demand for action

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - Monitoring conducted by Indonesia's Ministry of the Environment and Forestry has identified some seriously burned peatlands in the Tripa peatland complex located in the Leuser Ecosystem. The evidence suggests that the peatlands were burned, at least in part, for the development of palm oil plantations.

The Tripa peatland complex has traditionally formed one of the densest habitats for the orangutan, but unfortunately the majority of this area is now taken up by palm oil plantations. In fact, only a small part of the Tripa peatland complex was designated as a protected peatland area by the Aceh government in its 2013 - 2033 spatial plan.

The burned peatlands discovered by the ministry are found in this more than 11,000 hectare protected peatland area, some of which is already occupied by the palm oil concession PT SPS 2, a supplier to certain Singapore-based palm oil giants, most notably Golden Agri and Wilmar International.

The following video (taken on Oct 18) shows the burned peatlands in the Tripa peatland complex, despite this area's designation as a protected peatland area.

“I’ve already sent a letter to the Governor of Aceh to request that he take immediate steps on the ground and at the administrative level. I explained all the relevant details in my letter,” Dr Siti Nurbaya, the Environment and Forestry Minister, told foresthints.news during a technical briefing on the issue with her top officials at the ministry building (Oct 24).

This technical briefing was also attended by Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia, as this research-based NGO also joined in the monitoring of the Tripa peatland complex.

The Environment Minister explained that in the letter, which was forwarded to relevant ministers, the Peat Restoration Agency Chief and Aceh authorities, she reiterated that the Joko Widodo administration was very concerned with reducing the scale of peat fires, including by improving monitoring, prevention efforts and law enforcement.

“Fires often take place in the Tripa peatland complex. As such, I have asked the Aceh government to deal with this case as comprehensively as possible, so as to avoid any recurrence of peat fires there. If any violations come to light, law enforcement measures will be taken,” the minister warned.

The Environment Minister pointed out that there are three important blocks of peatlands in Aceh - the Tripa, Kluet and Singkil peat swamp forests - the majority of which falls within the boundary of the Leuser Ecosystem. She went on to give a detailed breakdown of these areas.

“Part of the Tripa peatland complex has been designated as a protected peatland area by the Aceh government. Most of the Kluet peat swamp forest forms part of the Gunung Leuser National Park and another part of it has been designated as a moratorium area. And, most of the Singkil peat swamp forest is a Wildlife Reserve.”

The minister also described how her enforcement team together with the police had recently apprehended some illegal loggers in the Singkil peat swamp forest.

As previously reported by foresthints.news, the minister along with Acehnese leaders declared a moratorium on the expansion of palm oil plantations and mining in the Leuser Ecosystem (Apr 19).

The Leuser Ecosystem is the only place on earth which can boast such a diversity of key wildlife, like orangutans, tigers and elephants, co-existing within a single ecosystem which is partly composed of a peatland landscape along the west coast and in southern Aceh.