PRESS RELEASE : Aceh NGOs call on the European Union to urgently mediate as conflict escalates over Aceh Parliament’s illegal land use plan
PRESS RELEASE – Aceh Forest Coalition
13/03/2014 – For immediate distribution
Aceh NGOs call on the European Union to urgently mediate as conflict escalates over Aceh Parliament’s illegal land use plan
[JAKARTA] Deputy Chairman of the Aceh Parliament, Muhammad Tanwir Mahdi, has announced to local media that Aceh Parliament rejected the Ministry of Domestic Affairs’ official evaluation of the Aceh spatial plan by-law (Qanun RTRWA) 2014-2034.
The content of the Aceh spatial plan is highly controversial, and various sources have denounced it as legally invalid. “There are many unanswered legal issues that still surround the issuance of this spatial plan by-law”, Kurniawan, SH, LLM. a legal expert from the University of Syiah Kuala of Banda Aceh, told a full press conference in Jakarta today. “The content of the proposed spatial planning law fails to recognize higher regulations, in particular ‘The Law on Governing Aceh’ (UU 11/2006) and the National Spatial Planning Law, both of which mandate the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem. The current spatial plan is technically invalid and must be revised to have any credibility”, Kurniawan, concluded.
“We welcome the evaluation that has been conducted by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs and are disappointed that Aceh Parliament has rejected this opportunity to improve the content of the law”, said Walhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) Chairman, Muhammad Nur. “In Aceh we suffer environmental and social problems because of the illegal land clearing from logging and palm oil that is already pushing our protected forests. The Aceh Parliament must recognize the environmental sensitivities of Aceh. Opening the protected forests causes flooding and landslides that create devastation for our people, which will only escalate with poor land use planning. We need a legally compliant spatial plan that includes the protection function of the Leuser Ecosystem. DPRA has failed to do this, and for this reason Walhi Aceh will be pushing a judicial review of the spatial plan on behalf of the community and environment of Aceh”.
“Aceh has been very fortunate to have the support of the world for many years” Said Farwiza, Chairperson of Forest Nature and Environment Aceh. “From 1992 to 2004 Aceh Government worked together with the EU on environmental and social development. We cannot forget the generosity of the world after we suffered the great losses of the 2004 tsunami, for this, I, as an Acehnese woman, will be forever grateful to the people of the world. There was a bitter 30 year civil conflict which ended with the MoU Helsinki, thanks to international facilitation. Aceh made great gains to rebuild thanks to a strong commitment to working together with the central government and international community, however, but now many in Aceh feel as if we have been forgotten, all of the gains we made together are now at risk if we can not urgently work together to find a solution to the rising social and environmental conflict that is now taking place.“
For further information please contact:
Kurniawan, SH, LLM
Legal Academic, University of Syiah Kuala of Banda Aceh
Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) Aceh Chairman,
Photo Credit : Paul Hilton / Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh
[MEDAN, NORTH SUMATRA] A large demonstration initiated by controversial palm oil company Pt Kalista Alam, who is accused of illegally destroying some of the world’s most important remaining orangutan habitat on the west coast of Sumatra, has disrupted the Meulaboh district court today where the Indonesian Ministry of Environment is prosecuting the company for environmental crimes. The potentially precedent-setting case has received international attention and is being monitored closely by NGOs, scientists, the government and industry alike.
The court was temporarily delayed as an estimated 150 palm oil workers, who arrived by busses believed to be paid by Pt Kalista Alam, conducted a noisy demonstration before the court, demanding the court find in favour of the controversial company. The same company had one of its palm oil concessions cancelled in September 2012, after administrational courts found the permit had been granted illegally, and last week its assets were frozen by the civil court as its process draws to an expected close. The final hearing has now been scheduled for December 5th where now the judges are expected to deliver a final ruling.
“PT Kallista Alam is one of several palm oil companies illegally burning forests on deep peat within the Leuser Ecosystem during the last few years” Said Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, speaking at a packed media event outside a major international RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) conference in Medan earlier today. “We congratulate the Indonesian Ministry of Environment on its action against PT Kallista Alam, but also remind people that a potentially devastating new spatial plan being proposed by the Provincial Government still threatens huge swathes of Aceh’s forests and their incredibly unique biodiversity, in addition to Aceh’s people and their economic livelihoods. If approved, this new plan is likely to lead to an upsurge of new legal cases due to the massive increase in environmental damage it will undoubtedly cause.”
“If the new spatial plan goes through it will be the the end of the Sumatran Elephant” Dr Singleton concluded.
“There can only be one word to describe the situation for the Leuser Ecosytem, and it’s emergency.” warned Kamaruddin SH, an Acehnese lawyer who represented communities in Tripa with their complaints against PT Kallista Alam. “The Leuser Ecosystem is a Nationally Strategic Area protected for its Environmental Function, It is currently illegal for any district, provincial or national leader to issue permits for palm oil, mining or any other activity that would degrade the environmental function of the Leuser Ecosystem, but powerful business lobby is currently trying to undo this, not to support community, but to line their pockets with the assets of Aceh. Todays show of intimidation by Pt Kalista Alam outside the court in Meulaboh is just one example of many companies attempting to intimidate the legal and political processes of Aceh, it deserves close scrutiny from anti corruption and legal agencies.
Landscape planning and GIS specialist, Graham Usher, showed satellite information and data analysis that highlighted the extreme sensitivity of Aceh’s environment. “Much of Aceh’s remaining forests are on steeply sloping terrain, that should be off limits to development under existing spatial planning regulations. Clearing forests and building roads in such areas is simply not safe, and potentially disastrous.
“What will happen if these forests are cleared is very clear, and easy to predict. We will see a collapse of the ecosystem, and the loss of the environmental benefits they provide to Aceh’s people. This will lead to food security problems in the future, in addition to a huge increase in flash floods, erosion and landlsides. It’s not rocket science”, he stressed. “it’s simply cause and effect. To open new roads and exploitive industrial concessions in the heart of Aceh will only result in even further destruction, and lead to a rash of new, entirely avoidable, social conflicts. It’s not only unique biodiversity that will suffer, Aceh’s people will suffer greatly as well!”
“Aceh is currently suffering from environmental anarchy, there is next to no law enforcement, and local elites are left to take what they want without monitoring or fear of legal consequences.”
“The community of Aceh feels that promises have been broken” stated TM Zulfikar, former Chairman of Friends of the Earth, Aceh. While many supported Governor Zaini in his election, there is now increasing frustration and anger being expressed towards his administration. “If we’d known Aceh was going to be carved up, cut down, and sold to the highest bidder most would probably have voted differently.
“Recently the Aceh Government told us at a public meeting that there is no budget left for the development of the Province’s spatial planning and that it therefore needs to be approved and ratified before the end of December. But they have still not completed any environmental sensitivity analysis and key data and information has failed to be shared. I seriously worry what the Government will do in the next two months. If things happen as we hear, he will forever be recorded in history as the Governor who returned Aceh to social conflict and environmental destruction.” Concluded Mr Zulfikar.
Gemma Tillack with Rainforest Action Network called on international consumer companies who use palm oil in their products to demand that their suppliers verifiably guarantee that the oil they supply is not connected to rainforest destruction like that taking place in Tripa. “Tripa and the Leuser Ecosystem are globally important areas. It is imperative that consumer companies take responsibility for the fact that Conflict Palm Oil like that produced at the expense of the Tripa peat swamp is making its way into the global marketplace. Companies like the “Snack Food 20” targeted by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) urgently need to engage with their supply chains and implement truly responsible palm oil procurement policies that demand palm oil be produced without contributing to rainforest destruction, climate pollution or human rights abuses.”
For further information please contact:
Dr Ian Singleton
Conservation Director, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP)
Landscape Sensitivity Analyst, PanEco Foundation
Aceh Communications Officer, Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL)
Lawyer for Tripa Community Coalition
Senior Agribusiness Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network
Region’s Smog Shows Need for Better Oversight; More Than US$7 Billion Lost
The 61-page report, “The Dark Side of Green Growth: Human Rights Impacts of Weak Governance in Indonesia’s Forestry Sector,” finds that illegal logging and forest-sector mismanagement resulted in losses to the Indonesian government of more than US$7 billion between 2007 and 2011. Indonesia recently introduced reforms to address some of these concerns and has been touting its forestry policies as a model of sustainable ‘green growth.’ But much logging in Indonesia remains off-the-books, fees are set artificially low, and existing laws and regulations are often flaunted. A “zero burning” policy and a moratorium on forest clearing are manifestly inadequate.
“The return of the smog is only the most tangible evidence of the damage from Indonesia’s continuing failure to effectively manage its forests,” said Joe Saunders, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. “Weak law enforcement, mismanagement, and corruption are to blame not only for the smog but also for the loss of billions of dollars a year in desperately needed public funds.”
The persistent failures have global implications. The smog causing so much suffering for Indonesia’s neighbors is produced by clearing forests for agriculture, a practice so widespread that it makes Indonesia’s carbon emissions among the largest in the world. The Obama administration announced on June 26, 2013, that it would invest more in sustainable forestry overseas as a way to combat climate change. However, without improvements in governance in Indonesia, greater investments by the international community may not bring significant change in the status quo.
The Indonesian government recently introduced reforms in part aimed at addressing forest mismanagement and corruption, including a timber legality certification system and a freedom of information law, but such efforts have fallen far short of their aims. The new report, an update to the 2009 Human Rights Watch report “Wild Money,” analyzes industry and government data, concluding that the pace of revenue loss has actually increased in recent years. In 2011 alone, the losses totaled more than $2 billion – more than the country’s entire health budget for that year, undermining the government’s ability to provide basic services to its population, Human Rights Watch said.
It is not only during the dry season that Indonesians suffer the negative consequences of forest mismanagement. The significant loss of revenues contributes to the government’s disappointing progress on a number of human rights concerns, notably those related to rural health care.
Indonesia’s forest communities, among the country’s poorest groups, have been harmed the most under the current system. Many of these communities have constitutionally recognized rights to use the land and forests or be adequately compensated for their loss. But the new legality certification system does not address whether timber is harvested in violation of community rights to forest lands.
Increasing demand for land to expand plantations appears to be leading to more violent land conflicts, Human Rights Watch said. The problem is especially acute on the island of Sumatra, where the majority of pulp and oil palm plantations – and most of this year’s fire hotspots – are located, often on land claimed by local communities. The government’s failure to comply with its own regulations for issuing concessions on forest land claimed by communities and its failure to hold companies accountable for violating legally required compensation agreements have led to an escalation in disputes. For example, in 2011, the escalation of long standing land disputes associated with an oil palm plantation in the Mesuji sub-district of South Sumatra led to violent clashes between local villagers and company security, leaving two local farmers and seven company staff dead.
In May the Constitutional Court ruled that the government’s practice of allocating concessions on customary land is unconstitutional, offering some hope to those communities. However, in the current climate of opaque, unaccountable forest governance, without adequate participation and oversight, identifying and registering rights to these lucrative forestlands could easily result in more, rather than fewer conflicts, Human Rights Watch said.
21/05/2013 -Press Release For Immediate distribution
Aceh Forests facing numerous threats
“the threats to Aceh forest are not as black and white as one plan”
[BANDA ACEH] “The threats to Aceh forest are not as ‘black and white’ as just one plan.” Explained Rudi Putra, Avaaz petition starter, “Acehs forests are facing numerous threats; illegal permits to open forests are being issued before the spatial plan is even agreed, land status is being downgraded, illegal logging continues, roads are being pushed through protected areas and poaching of protected wildlife continues in the field. The Government continues to push its agenda without transparency or opportunities to discuss the combined impacts of all the threats. Instead it seems to be responding to criticisms one by one, as only minor issues, in an attempt to mask the combined large scale and long term impacts that will result.” He continued.
In this last week over 1.2 million signatures have been added to an international petition calling on Indonesian President SBY and Aceh Governor Zaini to “reject the plan to cut down protected rainforests in Aceh.” Indonesia’s majestic forests are a global treasure, and we encourage engagement with the local community to develop a plan that prioritises sustainable development, and protects this fragile ecosystem and the animals that live there.” (1)
The campaign to protect and restore Aceh’s threatened forests continues to gather international attention after Head of the President’s Delivery Unit for Development, Monitoring & Oversight (UKP-PPP), Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, issued a press release questioning the source for the figures used in the debate. (2)
Rudi Putra added, “Pak Kuntoro is right. I agree that the information of the scale of the threat is drawn from a comparison of the former spatial plan from 2010, that aimed to protect 68% of Aceh’s land cover as forest, and the new plan currently being pushed, that will reduce this area to just 45%. Chairman of the Aceh Parliament’s Spatial Planning Committee made this statement in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year (3), and since that time, many media, NGO reports and even company websites have used the same figure.
“What we must focus on here though”, Putra continued, “is the problems already being caused by clearance of Aceh’s forests, and the threats posed by any further destruction and clearing of these forests, which will make things even worse. Even without cutting the forest, natural landslides and flash floods occur in Aceh on a regular basis, and when forests are cleared these disasters occur much more often and are much more severe. This is already impacting the community of Aceh, we should be working to reduce these threats, not to increase them.
“The Leuser Ecosystem is already protected by Law on Governing Aceh, law No 11/2006 and National Spatial Planning Law No 26/2007 and Government Regulation No 26/2008 as a ‘National Strategic Area for its Environmental Protection Function’, meaning that any development within the Leuser Ecosystem that damages its environmental protection function is illegal. Leuser acts as a life support for approximately four million people living around it by providing a steady supply of water, soil fertility, flood control, climate regulation and pest mitigation. The provincial spatial plan for Aceh must comply with existing National Laws protecting the Leuser Ecosystem, you can not simply ignore these laws to open up the forests for logging and mining. We are also extremely concerned about reports that roads are already being built, before any construction permits have even be granted”. Concluded Putra
Over the last few weeks major flooding has seriously impacted many districts of Aceh. Vice-Governor Muzakir Manaf, who visited the affected areas in Aceh Singkil on Thursday 16 May, told Aceh newspapers reporters that “the cause of the flooding is illegal logging and encroachment of forests” (4)
Graham Usher, a Landscape Protection Specialist who was involved in the environmental sensitivity analysis conducted in 2008 as part of the development of the previous Aceh Government’s forestry redesign process, welcomes Pak Kuntoro’s recommendation that a Strategic Environmental Assessment be carried out. “Both our environmental analysis, and a similar exercise carried out by the Asian Development Bank, estimated that between 63% and 68% of Aceh is very sensitive to disturbance, and that maintaining intact primary and restoring degraded forest cover was the best strategy for avoiding future environmental disasters. At the time, our recommendation was that the smart strategy was to expand forest cover, by restoring already degraded areas, ensuring both maintenance of environmental services and guaranteeing safe sources of timber for the future. But now, the key aspect of the new Aceh Government’s spatial plan is how much of these very sensitive areas are to be threatened with expansion of logging, road building, plantations and mining, even if they officially classified as forests. Aceh’s people know very well that any disturbance of forests in these areas results in devastating landslides, floods and complete changes to river systems. I think over 1 million people signed this petition because they share the concerns of Aceh’s people, and because they care about the fate of tigers, elephants, orangutans and rhinos, the incredible biodiversity of Aceh’s forests, and global climate change. If the current Aceh Government is, as it appears to be, determined on reactivating logging concessions in sensitive areas, pushing new roads through intact forests, and breaking up the Leuser Ecosystem, then people are quite right to express their concerns.”
The latest study from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Indonesia found that the local administration in Aceh is the worst performer when it comes to protecting the country’s remaining forests. (5)
For further media comment:
+62 813 6088 2455
Avaaz Petition starter
+62 877 6639 4260
Landscape Protection Specialist
PRESS RELEASE – 18 May 2013
MORE THAN 1,000,000 INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT URGE PRESIDENT YUDHOYONO TO SAVE ACEH FOREST
Jakarta – Today, an astounding progress for the #SaveAceh campaign; over one million have backed a campaign launched by Indonesian conservationist Rudi Putra, urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to intervene in the Aceh forest rezoning plan that would put orangutans, rhinos, tigers, elephants and other critically endangered wildlife at risk.
Rudi says “The forests of Aceh, home to endangered Sumatran orangutans and rhinos, are already being decimated by poachers and illegal loggers — but this plan would be truly catastrophic. Right now Aceh is already suffering from environmental disasters, floods are claiming lives and destroy properties along the west coast. The President and Governor need to intervene to stop the deadly landslides and flash floods that a mining and logging free-for-all would let loose on local communities.”
One key area falling under the proposed provincial spatial rezoning plan, is the National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection Function the Leuser Ecosystem, protected under Law 26/2007 and Government Regulation 26/2008, which is home to around 5,800 of the remaining 6000 critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, according to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. The Aceh provincial plan seeks to ignore National Spatial planning law 26/2007 Government Regulation 26/2008, resulting in the Leuser Ecosystem losing it’s protected status, which would allow extractive activity such as logging, mining and road building to take place.
Ian Bassin, Campaign Director of Avaaz said: “President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has a choice: to leave a strong legacy of protecting Indonesia’s natural resources or trash his green record by greenlighting this deal. More than 1 million people are urging him to stop the gold miners and loggers from raping Aceh’s forests and wiping out Indonesia’s most iconic wildlife.”
According to Co-Founder of Change.org Indonesia Usman Hamid, over a million signatures for Rudi’s petition in Avaaz.org shows tremendous solidarity from the international community to the #SaveAceh movement to urge the Aceh governor to cancel the destructive spatial planning law.
Canadian company gets heat from Canadians on Aceh deforestation
The rezoning plan, which according to Canada based East Asia Minerals press release, http://www.eaminerals.com/press-releases/229.pdf “would open more than a million hectares of forest in Aceh Province for mining logging and palm oil production” In the same release, the company claims to be working closely with the Government officials to obtain reclassification of ‘protected forest’ to ‘production forests’.
East Asia Minerals applauded the destructive plan for Aceh through a press release which created a strong backlash and a surge of thousands of signatures from Canada through Change.org petition http://www.change.org/SaveAceh showing that it is now a rising issue in Canada as well.
Laura Burden from Burnaby, BC, Canada says “I want my government to stop exploiting other countries and protect our fragile world instead.”
While Fred Oliff from Cambridge, Canada says “Canadian companies operating in foreign countries should be held to the same restrictions they would be in their own country.”
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CANADIAN MINING COMPANY ANNOUNCES INVOLVEMENT IN ACEH GOVERNMENT PLAN TO CLEAR OVER 1.2 MILLION HECTARES OF SUMATRA’S PROTECTED FORESTS AND RELATIONSHIP WITH FORMER INDONESIAN MINISTER NAMED AS CORRUPTION SUSPECT
East Asia Minerals admits key role in ‘illegal process’ and claims “good progress” in attempt to ‘reclassify’ over 1 million hectares of ‘protected forests.’ The mining company also claims to have hired Dr. Fadel Muhammad, a former senior Indonesian government official facing corruption charges, “to help them with these efforts.”
Aceh has world-renowned biodiversity, including critically endangered orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers. This change would also undermine its incalculable value as a major carbon sink.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – A Canadian mining company announced Tuesday that it expects the governor of Sumatra’s Aceh province to allow it and other extractive industries to destroy 1.2 million hectares of valuable and currently protected rainforest.
The company, East Asian Minerals, claims in a press release to be working closely with government officials and to have staff in Aceh lobbying to reclassify large tracts of the province from “protected forest” to “production forest.” The company’s website also states that it has hired a senior government official, former Golkar Deputy Chairman Fadel Muhammad “to help them with these efforts.”
Fadel, former Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and former Governor of Gorontalo Province, in addition to being the former Deputy Chairman of Indonesia’s’ Golkar Party, was re-named as a corruption suspect by the Attorney General’s office last week after several previous investigations over recent years. He is accused of misusing Rp 5.4 billion (US$ 567,000) from the 2001 provincial budget during his tenure as Gorontalo’s governor. Edward Rochette, the Canadian mining company’s CEO, said, “In his advisory role, Bapak Dr. Fadel will provide invaluable assistance to enable the projects in Indonesia to move forward in a timely and sustainable manner.” He appears either unaware or unconcerned regarding the charges facing Dr. Fadel.
“This spatial plan is being developed via a highly ‘unhealthy’ process, in which foreign corporations are intervening and driving local policy”. said Dedi Ratih, Spatial Planning Campaigner for WALHI Indonesia (Friends of The Earth Indonesia) “Reclassification of these forests is clearly not in the best interests of Aceh’s local communities, but instead in the interests of massive natural resources exploitation. This plan should be rejected immediately”
Opening these areas to mining, logging, and palm oil production would have disastrous consequences for the people of Aceh and huge areas of rainforest habitat of global importance for its exceptional biodiversity. These forests are home to critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants.
“This world renowned protected area -the Leuser Ecosystem – is the only place on earth where orangutans, rhinos, tigers and elephants are found side by side and the least real hope for the survival of viable populations of each of them. Not to mention the myriad of other threatened species residing there” said Dr Ian Singleton, director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. “If these plans proceed, their future is in immediate jeopardy.”
According to the statement from East Asia Minerals, Tgk. Anwar, chairman of the Aceh Provincial Government’s Spatial Planning Committee, “Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry has accepted ‘almost 100 percent’ of the province’s new spatial plan, which would zone large blocks of previously protected forest for mineral extraction, timber concessions and oil palm plantations.” He goes on to admit that “Aceh has the most forest cover of any province in Sumatra, but has lost more than a third of its forests in the past 20 years.”
East Asia Minerals has already been drilling and mining at its Miwah mine in Aceh, one of its three operations in the province. The company noted that the reclassification “will allow it to fully exploit the area’s mining potential and expand exploratory drilling – pushing into areas that are currently protected.”
It also explained how it is “working closely with Government officials in the country and has representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from from “protected forest” to a “production forest”.” The company states on its website that it plans to expand its excavations in all directions from the Moon River, which flows near to the Miwah site.
Land Already Viewed as “Too Dangerous for Logging”
Areas of the forest that have previously been identified as too high or too steep to be converted for palm oil – or having inappropriate soil to grow oil palms – have already been identified for protection under existing planning laws. These same areas are likewise completely inappropriate for other extractive uses, including logging and mining.
Illegal logging and mining is already taking place in these concessions – with terrible consequences for both the forest and the incredible biodiversity it supports. As East Asia Minerals itself acknowledges, Aceh has already lost more than a third of its forests in the past two decades alone. The new plan would also approve an extensive new network of roads, which would open up the area to yet more forest destruction and encroachment leading to catastrophic consequences for communities and agriculture downstream. The region is already prone to natural disasters that cause hundreds of deaths and huge economic losses each year.
“This is a dangerous move,” said Graham Usher, a landscape protection specialist who worked on a major review of Aceh’s forestry sector for the previous Governor. “Aceh’s people have experienced countless devastating landslides already in the past that were caused by exactly this kind of forest clearing and disregard for planning laws. This will result in yet more lives lost in coming years and immeasurable losses to local economies.”
Usher added “the East Asia Minerals press release is one of the strangest that I have ever seen. It essentially suggests that they and other extractive companies are effectively driving public policy, namely spatial planning, in Aceh. Not only is this a shocking admission of flawed governance, but the company even seems proud of it! Spatial planning should be based on sound scientific analysis of land suitability and environmental risks: not the profit margins of foreign companies!”
Singleton noted the plan would result in the highly publicised Tripa peat swamp forest losing its protected status and the loss of their potentially extremely valuable carbon stocks, that could be traded in international markets. Peat swamps capture and store carbon at higher rates than other forests, and are particularly valuable in mitigating the effects of climate change. “Aceh would be far better off in the future if instead of trashing the resources it has left to the benefit of the highest bidder, it worked towards a more sustainable economy,” he concluded.
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Note to editors:
For further comment:
Dr Ian Singleton
m: +62 811 65 0491
Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program
m: +62 877 6639 4260
Landscape Protection Specialist
m:+62 812 5080 7757
Spatial Planning Campaigner
Walhi National (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)
m: +62 8116 80708
Head of Spatial Planning Committee
Aceh Parliament (DPRA)
Miwah gold project closer to reclassification in Aceh, Indonesia
East Asia Minerals Enters Into Strategic Advisor Agreement With Dr. Fadel Muhammad
Fadel continues with candidacy despite corruption case
PRESS RELEASE: Aceh plans to clear 1.2 million hectares of protected forest trigger alarm over increase in landslides, floods and other natural disasters.
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Aceh plans to clear 1.2 million hectares of protected forest trigger alarm over increase in landslides, floods and other natural disasters.
[JAKARTA] An alarming admission from the chairman of the Aceh Government’s Spatial Planning Committee is fuelling serious concern over the potential illegal loss of 1.2 million hectares of Aceh’s protected forests, as was explained in detail at a press conference today in Jakarta.
Tgk. Anwar, today, in the Aceh Post, stated that the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry has accepted ‘almost 100%’ of the Aceh Government’s new spatial plan proposal. Earlier, he told the Sydney Morning Herald that Aceh was preparing to reduce its protected forest area from 68% to 45%, meaning the loss of 1.2 million hectares.
“The proposed changes have been wholly rejected by Aceh’s community and environmental non-governmental organisations,” explained Efendi, spokesperson for the Coalition of people Concerned for Aceh’s Forests (KPHA), “Despite our best efforts, communities and NGO’s have been completely excluded from the development process of the new spatial plan, which has totally lacked transparency and accountability. One week ago a coalition of 18 local and International NGO’s sent a letter to the Ministry of Forestry calling on him to reject the proposed downgrading of the protected status of several wildlife reserves, protected forests, and hunting parks, to “other land use”, which we naturally suspect is closely linked to planned expansion of palm oil plantations and mining. There is an inevitable belief that the proposal is simply to legalize illegal activities already taking place as several mining and palm oil concessions overlap the areas scheduled for downgrading. The plan also includes creating a new transmigration site within the UNESCO Sumatra Tropical Rainforest World Heritage Site. Furthermore, the new plan makes absolutely no mention of the legally and nationally protected Leuser Ecosystem, a National Strategic Area for its environmental function, and the abolishment of the Ulu Masen’s designation as a Provincial Strategic Area.”
The plan to transform huge areas of Aceh forest into mining and palm oil plantations has also been promoted by academic adviser to the Aceh government, Dr Irfan, who declared that under the new plan ”there are more areas given for the community”. Yet on further examination, the area to be allocated to community is only slightly over 1% of the planned new opening of forest (14,704 hectares), whilst by far the largest allocations go to mining (slightly less than 1,000,000 hectares) logging concessions (416,086 hectares), and palm oil concessions (256,250 hectares). The latter also includes plans to remove the protected status of the entire Tripa Peat Swamp Forest, an area that has received massive international attention due to illegal activities by palm oil companies destroying a global priority habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, which are still subject to ongoing Ministry of Environment and National Police legal action. In addition to these proposed new large-scale exploitive industrial developments, the new spatial plan also gives approval for an extensive new road network that will cut through currently protected forests, further disrupting wildlife and watersheds in the region and opening up even more forests for exploitation, both legal and illegal. Famously once known as the ‘Ladia Galaska’ road network, or the ‘Spider Web’, for its appearance, the plan is once again being resurrected, despite being rejected in the past by popular demand due to the severe environmental damage it would bring.
“Areas that had previously been identified as being too high or too steep for conversion, or as having inappropriate soil types and heavy rainfall, so that under existing Indonesian regulations they should be Protected Forests (Hutan Lindung), have now been identified as targets for logging concessions, roads, mining concessions and palm oil plantations, ” explained Graham Usher, a landscape protection specialist who has worked in Indonesia for almost 30 years and was previously involved in the Tipereska forest data review and mapping process for Aceh under the previous Governor. “Opening up such forests is an extremely dangerous move. Aceh’s people know very well that removal of forests on such steep and unstable soils results in devastating landslides and floods during the heavy rains that Aceh receives every year. Taking three case studies, we can easily map and predict serious long term threats to communities from reduced food security, soil impacts, landslides and flooding. The plan to clear these forests is a serious mistake that will result in the loss of yet more innocent lives and huge economic losses for the province.”
Dr Ian Singleton, of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program added his concern, “Despite the ongoing legal action against palm oil companies brought by NGOs, the Ministry of the Environment and the National Police, it is now being proposed that Tripa lose its currently protected status altogether, and for this unique peat swamp ecosystem and all its biodiversity and potentially hugely valuable carbon stock to be handed over to the palm oil companies for final, total obliteration. And now its not just Tripa and orangutans either. The new spatial plan does not even acknowledge the existence of the world renowned Leuser Ecosystem protected area or the fact that the forests they intend to “unprotect” are the last main hope for the long-term survival of iconic Sumatran endemic species such as the sumatran tiger, elephant and rhinoceros. The future of each of these species, and countless others, will be placed in immediate jeopardy if the plans are allowed to proceed. The Leuser Ecosystem is protected by National Spatial Planning law as a National Strategic Area for it’s Environmental Function. Ignoring the Leuser Ecosystem and these species’ habitat is absurd, and must surely be rejected by the Ministry of Forestry, who had given such praise to the previous Spatial Plan for Aceh, that in contrast to the new one was based on sound scientific and community impact studies. Its ironic that Aceh’s forests have received tens of millions of dollars from donor countries over recent decades for their protection, including major funds from the Multi Donor Fund after the 2004 tsunami, and yet after all that the Provincial Government now plans to trash them for roads, new mines, timber and oil palm concessions.”
Legal scrutiny of the new Aceh Spatial Plan and the process of its promotion to date also indicates that shortcuts have been made and people are being misled, such that it is highly likely that a number of national laws have been breached. If found to be true, this would put Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah and others within his government at risk of legal repercussions. The local community of Aceh Tamiang have in fact already expressed their alarm and issued a legal warning letter, or ‘somasi’, threatening legal action if the plans are allowed to go ahead. This illustrates very clearly that the new plan does not have the support of Aceh’s people.
2013 Future for Nature Award winner, Rudi Putra, the first Indonesian citizen to win this major international award in it’s 30-year history, has been working with the community of Aceh Tamiang and the local police on law enforcement activities to seize and destroy oil palms illegally planted in the protected Leuser Ecosystem. “In the last 3 years we’ve shut down 24 illegal palm oil plantations, and cut down the illegal palms themselves and restore and regenerate the natural forest, to restore the natural function of the forest to protect the communities, with great success. The community understand very well from previous devastating flash floods in the area, most notably in 2006, that clearing the forests upstream has a direct impact on the river flow and their own safety downstream. The people of Aceh are no fools, we know that when these unstable areas are cut, it directly leads to increasing natural disasters. If even the villagers know this why do the Aceh Government’s advisors not comprehend this simple connection. To protect the communities of Aceh, their safety and their livelihoods, we must protect the forests of Aceh and keep watersheds intact. It is not difficult to understand.” He reiterated.
“Aceh’s forests and the Leuser Ecosystem are the only place in the world where we have Sumatran rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans all living in the same area. Next week there is a major international conference on Asian Tropical Biodiversity taking place in Banda Aceh too, with hundreds of international and national scientists attending. How can this be happening at the same time that our provincial government is planning to wipe out our rich and unique biodiversity with this new spatial plan. It simply MUST be rejected immediately for the benefit of all of us.” he added.
For further question or comment:
Graham Usher, Lanscape Protection Specialist
Rudy Putra, 2013 Future for Nature Award Winner
Effendi Isma, KPHA Spokeperson
Note to editors:
To download both presentation materian and hi-res images please use this link: https://www.dropbox.com/sm/create/Press%20Conference%20Jakarta%20March%2013%202013
- Leuser Ecosystem Under Serious Threat (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Son of Aceh Received Prestigious Nature Conservation Award from The Netherlands (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Large blocks of Sumatra’s endangered rainforest may be put up for mining, logging (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- NGOs slam forest concession reactivation (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- URGENT CALL FOR ACTION – 4 day “fax-a-thon” to save beyond 1.2 million hectares of forest in Aceh Province, Sumatra (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
PRESS RELEASE: Walhi makes historic legal intervention as rogue palm oil company tries to sue Governor of Aceh over cancellation of controversial palm oil permit in Tripa Peat Swamp Forest
14/12/2012 – FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
Walhi makes historic legal intervention as rogue palm oil company tries to sue Governor of Aceh over cancellation of controversial palm oil permit in Tripa Peat Swamp Forest
[Banda Aceh] In an unprecedented legal move, on Thursday 13th December in the Administration court of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Walhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) motioned to join the Governor of Aceh Province as a co-defendent in a lawsuit brought against him by palm oil company PT. Kallista Alam, whose controversial palm oil concession in the Tripa peat swamp forests of Aceh he recently cancelled after law courts found clear legal infractions in the issuance of its plantation permit.
“WALHI’s move to intervene like this is the first ever of its kind in Indonesia, and serves to emphasise just how serious we are in our support for the Governor’s strong stance in upholding the law against illegal permits in the province”, stated Walhi Aceh Executive Director, TM Zulfiker. “In regard to the intervention”, he continued, “WALHI indeed have a serious interest in this case and wish to be represented in court. We must ensure the Administrational Court in Banda Aceh fully understands the legal processes that have led to this new case being filed, in particular the course of events that followed after Walhi won the appeal in its case against the company at the Administration Court in Medan, which led directly to the Governor taking action and revoking the company’s permit”.
Luhut MP Pangaribuan, head of the legal team representing PT Kallista Alam, objected to the motion, stating that WALHI Aceh have no interest in the case but Zuhri, the lawyer working for WALHI Aceh, immediately refuted this, stating that “The motion to join the case is based on the legal precedent and actions of the case filed by WALHI against the previous Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, and the company PT Kalista Alam, for legal irregularities in the now revoked permit. The permit was revoked by Aceh’s current Governor, Zaini Abdullah, after a court order requesting him to do so was issued by the Administration Court in Medan. This is precisely why we wish to stand by that decision and support the Governor for taking the correct legal course of action in revoking the permit”.
Today there are several ongoing legal cases related to the company PT Kallista Alam, as explained by Kamaruddin, a lawyer representing Tripa Community. “Firstly, there was the original case filed by WALHI Aceh against the company and former Governor for the issuance of the illegal permit. In this case, the judges in the administrational court of Medan agreed with WALHI Aceh, that there were indeed a number of legal infractions in the issuance of the permit. It was this decision that resulted in the current Governor cancelling the permit. Now the company is attempting to appeal this earlier decision with the Supreme Court in Jakarta”.
“Secondly, and in a separate case, PT Kallista Alam is attempting to sue the new Governor over the permit’s cancellation in the administrational court of Banda Aceh, even though it was revoked in full compliance with the law, as clearly demonstrated by the judges decision in the case described above. It is this new lawsuit in which WALHI is seeking to intervene and join, as a co-defendant standing alongside Governor Zaini Abdullah.”
“Thirdly, also in a seperate case, the Ministry of Environment and the Attourney Generals Office are taking legal action against the PT Kallista Alam for legal infringements in the field, at the district court of Meulaboh, in West Aceh.”. Kamaruddin went on to explain, “the main problem for all of us is that whilst these lengthy court battles are ongoing, the destruction of the unique Tripa peat swamp forests by Kallista Alam and other companies is continuing unchecked. All of the companies in Tripa are still actively commiting crimes in the field, and PT Kallista seems to be deliberately trying to prolong proceedings and slow down the cases against them”.
As the court was settling for Tuesday’s hearing in Banda Aceh, an angry protest was heard outside the courtroom, “PT Kallista Alam has destroyed Tripa and is selling out our country”, Fery, a protester from the coalition of students and community for Tripa, shouted through a megaphone to a mob of over 50 university students who had gathered, chanting, singing and carrying placards, to affirm their support for Aceh’s Governor and his stance against law breakers.
“It’s blatantly obvious there have been numerous crimes committed in Tripa relating to spatial planning law, environmental law, and forestry plantation law. There have also been clear breaches of the Indonesian Government’s moratorium on new plantations in primary forests and peatlands, which resulted from the billion dollar agreement between Indonesia and Norway”, stated Deddy Ratih, Spatial Planning Campaigner for WALHI Indonesia. “While WALHI is taking action in support of Aceh’s Governor, illegal actions in the field must also be halted by direct intervention of the police and both Provincial and National Government. Even today, despite all the legal wrangling in the courts, canals continue to drain the last of the life from Tripa’s protected peat swamps and PT Kallista Alam is simply playing games, as it tries to prolong and delay implementation of the law. The reality is that every day plantation activities in the field are slowing killing Tripa. All of the companies operating there must be reviewed and have their permits cancelled if they are not in full compliance with the letter of the law. Activities must be stopped and all drainage canals blocked immediately if this critically important and unique ecosystem is to have any chance of recovery”.
“No matter what the eventual outcomes of the various legal process taking place, it will all be meaningless unless strong and decisive action is taken right now on the ground, all the permits should be revoked immediately and work begin to restore the damaged areas”, he reiterated.
Public information on the appeal lodged by PT Kallista Alam with the Supreme Court is limited, and a decision on whether the appeal will be allowed to proceed or not is considered likely to take place ‘in camera’ (behind closed doors).
For further comment or information please contact:
Deddy Raith – firstname.lastname@example.org
Spatial Planning Campaigner, Walhi Indonesia (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)
Yuyun Indradi – email@example.com
Political Campaigner, Greenpeace Indonesia
- PT. Kallista Alam suing Aceh Government in regard to revoking permit (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Palm Oil company PT Kallista Alam fails to show in court case filed by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment over destruction of world renowned Sumatran Orangutan stronghold, the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest. (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- District court of Meulaboh delay Kallista hearing for the second time (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Tomorrow, The Civil Trial for Tripa Case Will Be Held In Meulaboh (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- State Attorney Lawyers File The Legal Case of Tripa Peat Swamp This Week (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
Palm Oil company PT Kallista Alam fails to show in court case filed by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment over destruction of world renowned Sumatran Orangutan stronghold, the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest.
Press Release – 27/11/2012 – For International Distribution
Palm Oil company PT Kallista Alam fails to show in court case filed by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment over destruction of world renowned Sumatran Orangutan stronghold, the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest.
[Meulaboh] Today the Court of Meulaboh, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, held its first hearing of a civil case brought by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Attorney General’s Office vs the palm oil company, PT Kallista Alam, for crimes conducted in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest.
The Indonesian Ministry of the Environment was represented by prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Indonesia. PT Kallista Alam, on the other hand, did not appear, causing the trial to be postponed since the judges were unable to address both parties.
One of the prosecution team, Lawyer Ryan Palasi, expressed disappointment over the company’s absence, “it suggests the defendant is not taking the proceedings seriously and not committed to settling the case,” he said after the hearing.
Conservation Director for the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme said “We very much welcome this landmark action by the Ministry of Environment and will be monitoring the case closely, There continues to be a huge amount of international interest in the events in Tripa, building the momentum for multiple investigations and this case to proceed. Earlier this year, the Administrational Court of Medan found that at least one concession owned by PT Kallista Alam in Tripa was illegal, resulting in Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah immediately showing strong leadership towards conservation by revoking the highly controversial permit. Tripa is indeed a high profile case with considerable international interest in how the Indonesian Government’s current prosecutions progress” he added.
Chairman of Friends of the Earth Indonesia’s Aceh office (WALHI Aceh), TM Zulfikar, concurred, “Walhi Aceh applauds the determination shown by the Ministry of Environment in bringing this case to the law court in Meulaboh. We hope this case will help strengthen land use planning and illustrate consistency in natural resource management within the province. Improved governance and accountability of law breakers is urgently needed to ensure Aceh’s natural resources can be managed more sustainably in future for the numerous benefits they provide for Aceh’s people. We would advice business operating in Aceh to disengage with environmentally destructive activities, much of the destruction of the Tripa ecosystem has be done illegally, and now its time to redress the balance and bring those responsible to account.”
The Tripa Peat Swamp Forest comprises 61,000 hectares, within the larger 2.6 million hectare protected Leuser Ecosystem; one of South East Asia’s most important biodiversity hotspots and the only place on earth where the Sumatran Tiger, Rhino, Elephant and Orangutan can all be found living side by side.
The start of legal proceedings in this case coincides with a visit to Indonesia by the Crown Prince of Norway, Haakon Magnus, and his wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, who according to press reports are interested in discussing environmental issues with President SBY whilst they are here. The Scandinavian country pledged a $1 billion assistance package to help protect Indonesian forests in 2010, on the condition that there is a verifiable reduction in deforestation and deforestation in Indonesia. Before the current wave of destruction by oil palm companies began in Tripa, these swamps provided abundant fresh clean water for local communities, and even today is a carbon store of global importance in the battle against climate change. In fact, large tracts of Tripa are also off limits to new plantation developments under a moratorium on new plantations in primary forests and peat swamps established by President SBY as part of the Government’s commitment under its 1 billion dollar agreement with Norway.
“Satellite imagery and community reports identify at least three companies operating in Tripa that have clearly breached the moratorium and other government legislation. These include concessions claimed by PT Kallista Alam, PT Surya Panen Subur 2 and PT Dua Perkasa Lestari,” said Deddy Ratih, Spatial Planning Advocacy Manager for WAHLI Indonesia. “We would like to invite Crown Prince Magnus and Indonesian President SBY to visit Tripa so they can see first hand the continuing deforestation, including those areas clearly off limits under the agreement between the two countries, to alert them to the realities on the ground and the fact that forest clearance and drainage of the peatlands is still continuing despite the legal processes now ongoing. All the palm oil companies in Tripa need to be reviewed to ensure they abide by the permits, and if the permits do not follow the law, they should be immediately revoked, the law of Indonesia needs to be followed” he added.
These sentiments were echoed by a local community member who wished to remain anonymous, due to fears of retribution from the companies concerned. “We are happy to see the Government’s efforts to help us save and restore Tripa, but are also concerned as the destruction of Tripa is still continuing on the ground, even today. These companies keep setting new fires to clear the forest, new canals are still being dug to drain the swamps, and the area is still dying as a result. Even though this case has now been brought to court something urgently needs to be done to stop activities on the ground immediately, or we will still lose Tripa forever,” he continued.
“Perhaps the biggest crime”, concluded an impassioned Dr Singleton, “is that despite all the
investigations, the court proceedings, and some successes so far, we may well end up with justice in the courts, but still lose the unique Tripa peat swamp forest ecosystem and its globally important Sumatran Orangutan population. Time is running out, and stopping illegal activities in the field and closing the drainage canals in Tripa has to be the number one priority. For the companies representatives to not even appear before the court when summoned today shows an all time low to the respect to courts, law and Government of Indonesia by the palm oil companies who operate in Tripa, they really must just believe the rules do not apply”.
The next hearing in this high profile environmental case is scheduled to be held in the district court of Meulaboh, Aceh Province, on 12th December.
For further comment please contact:
Dr. Ian Singleton
Director of Conservation, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program
Spatial Planning Advocacy Manager, WALHI (Friends of the Earth) Indonesia
Political Campaigner, Greenpeace Indonesia
- Historic Cancellation of Oil Palm Permit Opens Door for Prosecution of Companies Crimes (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
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- Aceh Revokes Permit for Controversial Oil Palm Plantation (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
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