Banda Aceh. The Banda Aceh Administrative Court on Friday ruled in favor of a palm oil company in its lawsuit against the Aceh governor’s revocation of its permit to clear and operate on a 1,605-hectare land in Rawa Tripa, a lush forest and peatland region in the province’s Nagan Raya district.
Presiding Judge Yusri Arbi said that Aceh Governor Zainal Abdullah’s decision in September 2012 to revoke the permit for plantation firm Kallista Alam, following an order from the Medan High Court, was not legally binding because the court decision was being challenged in the Supreme Court.
Kallista Alam obtained the permit to open the plantation from then Governor Irwandi Yusuf in August 2011. But the governor’s decision was met with protests by environmental activists who said that the area was the habitat of Sumatran orangutans, which are critically endangered, and other rare animals.
The Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) dragged the governor to the Aceh state administrative court but the court rejected Walhi’s suit on April 3, 2012. Walhi then appealed the ruling to the Medan High Court. On Aug. 30, 2012, the Medan High Court ordered the governor, now Zainal Abdullah, who was elected in April 2012 , to pull the permit.
The Ministry of Environment and the Attorney General’s Office later filed a case against Kallista Alam for crimes conducted in Rawa Tripa.
Kallista Alam, however, as an affected party, filed an appeal against the Medan court decision with the Supreme Court. At the same time, it filed a lawsuit with the Banda Aceh Administrative Court contesting the revocation of the permit.
The head of the legal bureau for the Aceh government, Edrian, said the government would file an appeal against this latest verdict with the Medan High Court.
“The Aceh government’s stance is clearly to file an appeal because the governor’s decision to revoke the business permit of Kalista Alam was to follow the decision of Medan High Administrative Court,” he told Jakarta Globe on Friday.
“The panel [of judges] should consider the environmental impact created by Kallista and the impact to the residents around Rawa Tripa before deciding to grant their lawsuit. Moreover, Rawa Tripa was once under international spotlight concerning forest burning when clearing the land.”
Edrian claimed that based on investigation of the Aceh government, Kallista Alam’s initial operations had damaged the environment and led to conflicts with residents.
Walhi Aceh director T.M. Zulfikar said the verdict was a set back in the efforts to conserve the peatland and protect the orangutans in Rawa Tripa.
“Walhi Aceh will also file an appeal to the Medan High Administrative Court,” Zulfikar said.
He said that Kallista Alam should not have been able to contest the revocation as the Aceh government had full authority to issue or revoke business permits as part of its extended authority as a special region.
“We hope the Supreme Court will issue a verdict as soon as possible on the appeal filed by Kallista [Alam] so the problem won’t drag on,” he added.
Orangutan Outreach has been partners with International Animal Rescue (IAR) since 2009. The orangutans of West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) now have a safe haven at IAR’s Orangutan Rescue Center in Ketapang. There, they are cared for and rehabilitated by trained professionals until the day comes when they can be released into a safe forest or island sanctuary.
Major palm oil producers accused of destroying Indonesia’s forests and driving its iconic wildlife to the verge of extinction are now taking their practices to the relatively pristine forests of the Congo Basin, an environmental group has warned.
In its report “Seeds of Destruction” released this month, the Rainforest Foundation UK said there was “a real and growing risk that some of the serious, negative environmental and social impacts resulting from the rapid expansion of palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia, such as widespread deforestation, social conflict and dispossession, could be repeated in the Congo Basin.”
“This report shows that some of the same major players behind oil palm production in Southeast Asia [such as Sime Darby, Goodhope, Wilmar and FELDA] are now turning their attention to Africa,” RFUK said.
The report said the companies were turning to the Congo Basin region, which includes Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, among others, because of lower land and labor costs and preferential access to the European Union market.
It warned that unless the African governments were fully aware of how these companies were operating in Indonesia and Malaysia, they could suffer from the same problems seen in Indonesia.
“Of the companies which have been identified as being behind specific developments, or are otherwise known to be seeking oil palm land in the Congo Basin, three — Cargill, Sime Darby and Wilmar — have been found in the past to be involved in illegal and destructive oil palm development in Indonesia,” the report said, citing independent claims made by the environmental groups Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace and AidEnvironment.
It added that the negative environmental and social impacts “typical of [palm oil] developments in Indonesia have already been well-documented at … Sime Darby’s concession in Liberia.”
RFUK listed the negative impacts as deforestation and loss of biodiversity, increased carbon emissions from the clearing of primary and peat forests, conflicts with indigenous residents over land rights, pollution of local water resources and poor working conditions for local laborers.
To avoid these problems, it recommended greater transparency in the palm oil contracts, ensuring respect for local communities and empowerment of smallholder farmers, among other measures.
The increased expansion into Africa by Southeast Asian palm oil firms grabbed headlines last month when farmers in Liberia denounced the “modern slavery” visited upon them by an Indonesian company, Golden Veroleum Liberia.
“The Indonesians came here for the first time in September 2010,” resident Benedict Manewah told AFP.
“They said, ‘We have a concession agreement, your president has sold it to us.’ Three months later they came back … and they started to destroy the properties, farmlands, crops, livestock and houses.”
Sime Darby, from Malaysia, was the subject of similar complaints in Liberia.
- Indonesia’s palm oil blues spreading to Africa, report says (eco-business.com)
- Capitalists amping up destruction of Congo rainforests for palm oil plantations (dgrnewsservice.org)
- The REDD contradiction: Deforestation and oil palm plantations in the Congo Basin (climate-connections.org)
- Felda Urges Tax-Free Palm Oil to Combat Reserves: Southeast Asia (bloomberg.com)
- Video: Environmental crime: In pursuit of the palm oil industry in Liberia (climate-connections.org)
- Starbucks Will Source Only Sustainable Palm Oil By 2015 (triplepundit.com)
- The Perils of Palm Oil (familysurvivalprotocol.com)
- Palm oil casualty? 14 pygmy elephants fall prey to pesticides in Borneo (csmonitor.com)
It is a tradition in mass media to compile an end-of-the-year list. While the Jakarta Globe has covered “Indonesian Stories That Raised Eyebrows in 2012” and “The Biggest News Stories of 2012 Have Only Just Begun,” do not forget to take a moment to review environmental issues.
Indonesia is often dubbed as a country plagued with amnesia. Hence, here are a few of environmental stories that made headlines over the past year — those that still need to be followed up in 2013.
Illegal Wildlife Trading
Indonesian Police arrested a Depok resident in possession of dozens of stuffed rare animals and pelts in July — after a long hiatus on breaking down illegal wildlife trading.
At least 25 stuffed animals and pelts of rare and protected species were seized by the police, in Cimanggis, Depok, West Java, in the July raid.
The items confiscated included 14 tigers, two leopards, one clouded leopard, a lion and three bears. There were also two sacks full of tiger pelts, as well as a stuffed tiger head and four deer heads. This was considered as the biggest bust involving animal body parts.
In August, the Forestry Ministry arrested an antique dealer selling the skin of an endangered Sumatran tiger. At least four people were caught red-handed in Cilandak, South Jakarta, while attempting to sell a Sumatran tiger skin and a Javan leopard pelts.
Both cases violated the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law, for which the perpetrators could get up to five years in prison and up to Rp 100 million ($10,325) in fines.
The suspect in July bust, identified as Feri, was charged under the aforementioned law but was later released on bail. Both cases triggered fierce campaigns on major online shops in the country to stop facilitation transactions on rare and protected animals.
Orangutans Let Free
In 2012, there were still news about orangutans being kept as pets. But over the past year, at least 44 orangutans have been released and brought back into the wild from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundatio’s Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Center in Central Kalimantan.
Meanwhile, another six orangutans were set free from the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Reintroduction Program and Land Rehabilitation in East Kalimantan. The orangutans were sent to the Kehje Sewen forest, an ecosystem restoration area in the province.
There are still at least 600 orangutans waiting to be released. This release will contribute to the target set by the presidentially-mandated Indonesian Orangutan Conservation Action Plan 2007-2017. The plan was announced by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2005.
The Birth of Andatu, Rare Sumatran Rhino
2012 was dubbed as the International Year of Rhino. A critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros gave birth in captivity in June in more than a century.
The birth was recorded in history as the first successful breeding outside its natural habitat. The male calf was named “Andatu,” an acronym from his father “Andalas” and his mother “Ratu.” In Bahasa Indonesia, Andatu means “Anugerah Dari Tuhan” or Gift From God.
Andatu was born at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park, Lampung.
Indonesia, where one of only 11 nations where rhinos are found, is lucky to be the birthplace of Andatu. The country has two kinds of rhinos: the one-horned Javan rhino with only 35 left in Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java and the two-horned Sumatran Rhino, which only 200 left in the wild.
Tripa Peat Swamp and Environmental Crime
The Tripa peat swamp was the highest profile case in Indonesia since 2011. The debacle caught intense attention both from the Indonesian authorities and the international world.
The case was brought into attention by local people in Aceh in late 2011 revealing issuance of a permit to clear 1,605 hectares of forest inside the Leuser ecosystem in Nagan Raya district by then-governor Irwandi Yusuf to a plantation company Kalista Alam in the Tripa area. The permit issuance was a breach to Indonesia’s commitment on forest moratorium, which was pledged in 2009.
The Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) then filed a lawsuit against Irwandi to revoke the permit. The Indonesian authority, under the REDD (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation) task force, also took action by requesting the Ministry of Environment to conduct investigation over the case.
Both institutions have claimed that the permit was violating the moratorium agreement. In September this year, Walhi won the lawsuit at the Medan State Administrative Court, North Sumatra, which called for Aceh administration to scrap the permit awarded for the company.
The ruling was then followed through by the now-elected Aceh governor Zaini Abdullah in September, who finally revoked the permit of the company in Tripa.
The Tripa forest, part of the rich Leuser Ecosystem, is home to the world’s densest population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans and one of the few places on earth where orangutans, Sumatran tigers and sun bears can still be found living side-by-side.
There is still ongoing court process over the Ministry of Environment.
Hazardous Toxic Waste
The beginning of 2012 started off with 113 containers of dangerous and hazardous waste mixed with scrap metals entered Tanjung Priok harbor shipped from England and Netherlands.
This hazardous waste was said to be the “largest shipment” ever transported into the country and became an important issue from Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya and Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo at that moment.
The 113 containers were sent back to its original country: 89 containers to England and 24 containers to Netherlands. It did not stop there. The customs widened its inspection and targeted an additional 3,446 containers from Tanjung Priok, 130 containers at the Tanjung Perak port in Surabaya, 11 containers at the Tanjung Emas port in Semarang and 77 containers at the Belawan port in Medan.
As a result, the ministry was bombarded with protesters claiming from scrap metal association and demanded to release the containers as they might lose their income.
From the law enforcement side, the ministry is currently investigating 254 containers and preparing for legal actions based on the 2009 Law on Environmental Management and Protection, the 2008 Law on Waste Management and the 1995 Customs Law for violating the documents. Currently, eight people were declared as suspects: two Chinese and the rest were Indonesians.
Orangutans in Indonesia could be on the brink of extinction all for a product many Americans do not even know they are consuming. The Orangutans natural habitat in Indonesia are allegedly being burned down and decimated to make room for trees that produce palm oil.
Palm oil is a cheap ingredient that is used in almost half the items in American grocery stores. But because palm oil goes by so many different names it can be hard for consumers to identify it in the products they are purchasing.
Jane Velez-Mitchell spoke to Rolf Skar the Forest Campaign Director for Greenpeace USA. For more information visit Greenpeace.
To find out how you can adopt an orangutan check this link.
sign the petition at www.change.org/savetripa2
See the full story Friday night on Jane Velez-Mitchell at 7pm ET on HLN.
Who knows, may be the Presiden was too busy to read or to receive reports on the issues around the operation of oil palm plantations in this country. The statement contradicts the report of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claiming that the production of Crude Palm Oil from Indonesia is environmentally unfriendly. EPA replied by visiting this country to look closer at the oil palm plantation.
Before visiting the plantations, EPA’s representative attended a 1-day workshop with the topic Sustainable Palm Oil Related to GHG Emission in Jakarta. This event was initiated by ISPO Commission in collaboratio with the Indonesian Oil Palm Council (DMSI), Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) and supported by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Let us have a glimpse look at some excerpts of events showing how “unclean” the oil palm plantations in this country, be it of the members of Rountable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or not. Still fresh in our memory, by the end of September 2012, as Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah revoked the permit of PT. Kalista Alam over 1,605 ha oil palm plantation in Aceh’s Tripa Peat Swamp. The permit issued by former Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf in August 2011 was included within the area of moratorium.
This permit was not only violating the procedure – which was legally challenged by WALHI Aceh and granted by the Administrative High Court of Medan, the land clearing was done by burning. For the clearing by burning, the Presiden Director of PT Kalista Alam became a suspect.
Is Tripa Peat Swamp free from destruction? The answer is: No. Why? There are still oil palm companies remaining within this peat swamp forest area, which is part of Leuser Ecosystem. By the end of 2012, smokes were still observed within the areas of several oil palm concessions.
Data from Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) obtained from satellite images until September 2012, the highest number of hotspots were identified within two olil palm concession areas, which are 134 in the area of PT Surya Panen Subur and 55 of PT Dua Perkasa Lestari. “It turns out that whilst fussing about PT Kalista Alam, the others took the chance to continue their action,” said Riswan Zen, a researche of Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL), by the beginnig of October 2012.
Another case, within the plantation of PT Bumi Pratama Khatulistiwa (PT BPK) of Wilmar International Group. By the end of August 2012 in the village of Sungai Enau, Sub district Kuala Mandor b of the District Kubu Raya in West Kalimantan, farmers have been protesting against this oil palm company, member of RSPO. This is not the first time. They repeatedly demanded the company to fulfil its promises, among others to improve the access road and to employ the surrounding community.
Those to points are parts of the agreement between the company and the community as the condition for the community to release their lands. This agreement has been reviewed many times, the last was due in the mid of August. Since there was no realisation, the community reclaimed their land of around 4,000 ha. This is only one of a number of the issues resulted through the presence of oil palm companies in this area.
Investigation of WALHI West Kalimantan in April 2012 shows that the company has ignored the social aspect and the aspect of sustainable management of the environment. The company also ignored a number of regulations related to the obligations to fulfil as being member of RSPO and the IFC’s standard of performance.
The standard regulations of RSPO are among others commitment to transparency, complying with existing laws and regulations, commitment to long term economic and financial viability. Then, targeted best management practices of the plantation and the mill, environmental responsibilty, conservation of natural resources and biodiversity, as well as responsibility upon workers, individuals and community affected by the plantation and the mill.
Standard criteria of IFC are among others assessment on social, environmental, management and labor systems and working condition, mitigation to pollution, utilisation, health and community’s safety and security. Then, land acquisition and resettlement as well as sustainable conservation of biodiversity and natural resources, indigenous community and culutural heritage.
According to Hendrikus Adam, Research and Communication Coordinator of WALHI West Kalimantan, WALHI’s findings are among others that the community does not experience any social responsibility of the company. If there was, it was based on the request of the community, not based on the company’s initiative. And then also that the company grabs the land from the community during the expansion of the plantation.
Conflict potensial in the field related to the presence of the company are still existing. This is visible through sign boards installed by the community restricting the company to work on the land within the company’s plantation area. “The community has been demonstrating demanding company’s righteousness. The community has claimed the land, plasma Potensi konflik di lapangan, terkait kehadiran perusahaan masih ada. Kondisi ini, terlihat dari pemasangan sejumlah plang oleh warga sebagai tanda perusahaan dilarang mengerjakan lahan di areal perkebunan PT. BPK. “Warga pernah demonstrasi menuntut keadilan kepada PT. BPK. Banyak lahan diklaim masyarakat, plasma plantation was managed by the company and never divided amongst the farmers,” he said mid September 2012.
The company was considered not trasparent in the management of the plantation. The clearing of the plantation land of PT. BPK also destroyed the forest in the surrounding of community’s settlement. “This totally eliminates the biodiversity and existing wild life as well as traditional medicine plants.”
Residents and plantation companies continue to open plantation areas by burning forests because it is the easiest and cheapest method, the nation’s disaster-prevention agency says.
“The people and businesses burn [forests] because it is much cheaper,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), told BeritaSatu on Saturday.
“Besides, they normally burn peatland where the acid level of the land is unsuitable for plantation. [The area] will become fertile if it’s burned and the ashes can be used as fertilizer.”
Sutopo said that explained why people were still burning forests to open land despite many regulations to ban the practice.
The Environment Ministry is investigating eight companies in Sumatra — two in Riau, four in South Sumatra and two in Aceh — that allegedly burned a total of 3,814 hectares of forest land to open new plantation areas.
The government has also put eight provinces on its forest fire control priority list: North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, East Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan.
Environmental law analyst Mas Achmad Santosa said that the lack of investigators to handle environmental cases slowed the Environment Ministry from enforcing the law. “The law offers a wide scope for law enforcement on environmental crimes,” Santosa said on Sunday.
The Law on Environmental Protection and Management enables civil servants tasked with investigating environmental cases to immediately start or halt an investigation without reporting it to the police. They are also authorized to arrest suspects through coordination with the police.
But many environmental crimes investigators no longer work in law enforcement. The ministry “just needs to call the civil servants who have shifted to other fields but still working in the ministry,” he said.
Previously, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said the ministry had 1600 environmental crimes investigations to be distributed. Ministry data showed that 554 cases as of November 2010 but only 398 were active.
On Saturday morning, BNPB put out fires in an oil palm plantation area in Muarojambi district, Jambi.
“The fire on a 700-hectare plot of land in Muarojambi was contained this morning. It was an oil palm plantation area,” Sutopo said, adding that the fire-fighting effort involved artificial rain, water bombs and land-based attacks.
The agency is creating artificial rains in Riau and Central Kalimantan for 40 days because the dry season has just started.
“In Riau, the artificial rain will be created using two Cassa 212 aircraft and two helicopters for water bombs,” Sutopo said, adding that artificial rains would also be generated over Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.
“Artificial rains were created on Aug. 12, and we will do it again on Aug. 28 in both provinces. The process will be carried out for 40 consecutive days,” he said.
Water bombing is one method of containing forest fires, however, it has limited coverage and cannot be done over wide areas. “With artificial rains, it depends on the clouds. There are not enough clouds in mountainous areas during the dry season. … It’s possible to be carried out on peatlands by soaking them with water so that it doesn’t burn easily, but given the condition of rivers in Indonesia, this also poses a problem,” Sutopo said.
BNPB has allocated Rp 12 billion ($1.26 million) to contain forest fires but will increase it to Rp 30 billion if conditions worsen. BNPB has also prepared three additional helicopters and two aircraft to create artificial rains.
BANDA ACEH – Head of the Aceh Police, Inspector General Iskandar Hasan said that his office will summon everyone involved in the case of Tripa Peat Swamp.
“We will see, if involved, anyone, not only the former Governor, will be summoned,” he said to The Atjeh Post after an event Saweu Keude Kupi at Bay Café, Ulee Lheu, Banda Aceh on Friday, May 11, 2012.
Shortly before, Akhiruddin Mahjuddin, Coordinator of Indonesian Anti-Corruption Movement (GeRAK), has been questioning, why the Aceh Police has not been examining the former Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, who has been issuing the permit to PT Kalista Alam.
“Before the concession permit for PT Kalista Alam was issued by the Governor of Aceh, at that time Irwandi Yusuf, on August 25, 2011, the Aceh Police sent a letter with the number B/173/VIII/2001/Dit Reskrimsus to the Head of BP2T Aceh on August 11, 2011,” said Akhiruddin.
He said that the content of the letter legalised PT Kalista Alam to utilise the particular area, although it is situated within Leuser Ecosystem and without any Plantation Permit. The permit was in the process of accomplishment and for PT Kalista Alam the plantation permit was exceptionally issued by BP2T Aceh.
According to the Inspector General, the problem is not about the land clearing for oil palm plantation, but the clearing by burning.
“The problem is the burning (of the land). The permit was complete. How the process of the permit, this could be investigated at the related office,” he said.
In conjunction with the case, the Directorate of Special Crime of the Aceh Police has been accompanying the joint team of the Ministry of Environment, who conducted field visit to Tripa Peat Swamp several days before.
“The occurring peat fires are now processed by the National Police together with related department. Then they will follow up on this, also for the legal process,” said Iskandar.
The Inspector General hoped that the environmental sustainability of Tripa Peat Swamp will not be distracted in the future.
The case of Tripa Peat Swamp emerged after it was reported by the Community Concerned about Tripa on November 23, 2011 to the National Police. Based on that report, the National Police ordered the Aceh Police through a letter No. B/4472/Ops/XI/2011/Bareskrim dated on November 25, 2011 to conduct investigation.