Regency head calls for stop to palm oil development in contested peat forest in Indonesia

Regency head calls for stop to palm oil development in contested peat forest in Indonesia

Tripa peat swamp.
The location of the Tripa peat swamps (circled) on the west coast of Aceh province, northern Sumatra, showing rivers, forest cover in 1990, peat, and district boundaries. Tripa is the site of a controversial new oil palm plantation that has could put Aceh’s governor in prison. Image courtesy of Tim Koalisi Penyelematan Rawa Tripa, a coalition of community groups seeking legal action against the governor.

The acting head of Nagan Raya Regency — the location of Tripa peat swamp — on Thursday demanded a stop to a controversial palm oil development project that conservationists say threatens a population of endangered orangutans, reports Serambi Indonesia.

Nagan Raya bupati H Azwir told the Aceh-based newspaper that PT Kalista Alam should immediately cease activities in the contested part of Tripa’s peat forest, in Aceh Province on the island of Sumatra. He said that research into the palm oil company’s concession indicated that PT Kalista Alam lacked permission to convert the forest into a plantation.

“We asked the company to immediately stop the activity in the area. Their actions are wrong, because there is no consent,” Azwir is quoted as saying.

Azwir added that PT Kalista Alam may be required to restore the area that area that it damaged.

But Azwir has limited power is stop PT Kalista Alam’s activities according to Elfian Effendi, head of Greenomics-Indonesia.

“The acting regent has the power to ask the company to stop the operation based on certain considerations, especially legal aspects,” Effendi told “However, the acting regent has no power to revoke the permit because the PT Kalista Alam’s permit was issued by the Aceh Governor.”

Irwandi Yusuf, the governor who issued the permit, has since been voted out of office. Irwandi, who has been championed as a leader in efforts to save Indonesia’s forests, said earlier this year that he granted the license to highlight lack of financial support for forest conservation. Millions of dollars promised by the international community to help protect Aceh’s rainforests have been slow to materialize.

Demands for action in the Tripa case have heated up in recent months after a campaign by a coalition of environmental groups. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the chairman of Indonesia’s REDD+ Taskforce recently demanded a full investigation into PT Kalista Alam’s concession. Kuntoro has since indicated that the contested land could be made off-limits to development under the next iteration of the Indicative Map that is the basis for Indonesia’s two-year moratorium on new concessions in peatlands an primary forest areas.

Effendi said that Azwir’s call could boost the effort to reestablish the Tripa concession as land protected under the moratorium.

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About endoftheicons

The Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is in grave danger. Local politicians want to allow logging, mining and palm oil plantations in this vulnerable area. Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers are already hanging on by a thread. They will not survive the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.

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