Archive | July 2012

Road Construction in Aceh Fragment Wildlife Habitat.

Road construction in Aceh fragmenting forest, causing environmental destruction and disconnecting wildlife corridor. Photo: Chik Rini

By Chik Rini (Contributor Aceh), July 28, 2012 8:22 am
Mongabay Indonesia

Road development connecting districts in Aceh within the last 10 years has (at least) disconnect six wildlife corridors in Leuser Ecosystem and Ulu Masen Ecosystem. These are two vitally important ecosystem in Sumatra, amounting to 3.3 million hectares. It is also the only place in the world where four endangered Sumatran mammals share habitat: Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), Sumatran Elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus), Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abeii). This area is also home to about 4,500 flora and fauna species of Indo Malaya, some considered very rare and perhaps many more unidentified.

A number of non-governmental organizations and environmentalists including Walhi Aceh, Transparency International Indonesia (Aceh Program), WWF Indonesia (Aceh Program), Leuser International Foundation, Uno Itam, PeNA, Aceh NGO Forum and Aceh Human Rights NGO Coalition, Friday (27/7) lodged a protest over Aceh government plan to continue inter-district road construction until 2017.

Executive Director of the Leuser International Foundation (LIF), Agus Halim, said the construction of roads linking areas in the South West Coast – Central Highland – North and East Coast of Aceh are causing fragmentation of Leuser and Ulu Masen ecosystem. Disconnecting wildlife corridor in many locations and narrowing wildlife distribution areas.

“We documented wildlife corridor disconnected in many locations throughout the entire Aceh forest, areas that has been pockets of habitat for endangered species such as elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans” he said, in Aceh, on Friday.

LIF noted, the route that disconnected these wildlife corridor include Babahrot – Trangon, cutting through Southwest Aceh district and Gayo Lues district. Blangkejeren – Pinding – Lokop route, cutting through wildlife corridor in Leuser Ecosystem in Gayo Lues district. Muara Situlen – Gelombang route cutting through South East Aceh and Subulussalam fragmenting wildlife corridor between Gunung Leuser National Park and Singkil Swamp Wildlife sanctuary.

Then Pondok Baru – Samarkilang route in Bener Meriah district separating corridor in central and north Leuser, and Jeuram – Beutong Ateuh that cut through Central Aceh and Nagan Raya disconnecting wildlife corridor between Leuser and Ulu Masen. Followed by road between Lamno – Jantho – Keumala – Pameu, cutting through Greater Aceh, Aceh Jaya, Pidie and Pidie Jaya disconnecting northern wildlife corridor of Leuser and Ulu Masen.

“We believe many other corridors that connect these pockets of important wildlife habitat in Leuser and Ulu Masen are also destroyed to small scale unplanned and unlicensed road that is operating now.” He added

According to Agus, one of the evident of disrupted wildlife corridors is increased frequency of human-wildlife conflict in Aceh, especially conflict with elephants and tigers. Animal with extensive migratory range is cornered by their fragmented habitat. “Plus, large-scale land conversion of forest to cropland, large-scale plantation, mining and human settlement has worsen the problems.”

LIF has noted, elephant distribution route is cut-off in at least 13 locations. Several pockets of elephant habitat are no longer ideal due to severe fragmentation making the area too small to support elephant population. Agus draw example of Pinding – Lesten route, Pinding – Lokop route, Jeuram – Beutong Ateuh route and area of Manggamat and Gelombang.

The roads build across these high-conservation-value-forest also have severe side-effects, including opening access for illegal timber harvest and wildlife poaching.

Greenomics studies stated, construction of roads in the forest would result in deforestation rates ranged from 400 to 2400 hectares per kilo meters of roads. Leuser ecosystem is estimated to be fragmented into 12 smaller piece.

Aceh has the best forests in Sumatra. Even in Southeast Asia, this is the only forest area consisting of two blocks of intact forest ecosystem; Leuser and Ulu Masen ecosystem. Unfortunately, wildlife corridors of this unique forest ecosystem is facing the threat from road construction plans.

Executive Director of TM Walhi Aceh. Zulfikar request the government to review the plans to continue the construction of those roads. “Better to focus on improving the community through other sectors of the economy that is more environmentally sound,” said Zulfikar.

They warned the new Aceh government that the construction of these roads has the potential to violates various laws and regulations, including Law no.11/2006 concerning Law on Governing Aceh, Law 41/1999 on Forestry, Law 26/2007 on Spatial Planning juncto Government Regulation 26/2008, Law 32/2009 on Environmental Protection and Law 5/1990 on Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystem.

The protest for this road construction plan is due to its wide ecological impact. “This will open doors to forest destruction in Aceh, destroy wildlife corridors and increase human-wildlife conflict, destroy water catchment and disrupt hydrological cycle. These disaster will have huge economic consequences for Aceh people and its government.”

This road project is part of the continuing development Ladia Galaska road, which slice Leuser forest in Babahrot – Blangkejeren – Pinding – Pasir Putih route, Terangon – Tongra route, Pinding – Lokop – Peunaron route, Muara Situlen – Gelombang route, Simpang Tritit – New cottage – Samarkilang route. Trumon – Bulohseuma – Kuala Baru route, Kuala Tuha – Lamie route, Krueng Geukeuh – Bener Meriah border route, Simpang kebanyakan – North Aceh district boundary and the Ulu Masen Jantho – Lamno – Keumala – Pameu.

Campaign cuts Norway’s palm oil consumption 64%

A campaign run by environmental activists has helped lead to a 64 percent reduction in palm oil use by eight major food companies in Norway, reports Rainforest Foundation Norway, which led the effort.

Rainforest Foundation Norway and Green Living launched the palm oil campaign last fall highlight links between palm oil consumption and deforestation in Southeast Asia. It aimed to reduce demand for palm oil in the Scandinavian country, where palm oil consumption was roughly 3 kilogram per year, mostly through processed food products.

The campaign asked major food companies to disclose their palm oil use and whether palm oil was certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification initiative. Following the survey, the environmental groups published a ‘palm oil guide’ where consumers could look up the palm oil content in the products they buy. The effort went beyond traditional labeling which allowed palm oil to be listed generically as ‘vegetable oil’ or ‘vegetable fat’.

Chart: Palm oil consumption in Norway.

According to Rainforest Foundation Norway, the campaign had an immediate impact — Norwegian food producers started to scale back on, or even phase out, palm oil. Stabburet, which was once one of the country’s largest palm oil buyers, banished palm oil from its products completely, while Mills, the largest buyer, cut use by 95 percent. The result so far is food companies in Norway have reduced palm oil buying by 9,600 metric tons, or 64 percent of last year’s 15,000 tons worth of palm oil. Per capita palm oil consumption in Norway is set to fall to just over 1 kilo per year.

The campaign only targeted food manufacturers, not fast food chains and restaurants, cosmetics producers, or animal feed makers.

Lars Løvold, Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway, said the campaign could be a model for other countries.

“Norwegian food producers have demonstrated that it is possible to produce and sell food without palm oil, avoiding complicity in rainforest destruction,” said Løvold. “The experience from Norway should inspire consumers globally to demand food products which do not contribute to rainforest destruction.”

Palm oil is the most productive of commercial oil seeds but its expansion in recent decades has taken a heavy toll on rainforests and peatlands in Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for nearly 90 percent of global production. Green campaigners have thus targeted major palm oil buyers in an effort to shift the industry toward less damaging practices. In response, the palm oil industry, working with some environmental groups, have set up the RSPO which sets social and environmental criteria for palm oil production. The hope is that buyers are willing to pay a slight premium for RSPO-certified palm oil. Still some activists have criticized the RSPO as not being strong enough and are campaigning for stricter safeguards.

The palm oil industry asserts its crop offers more oil per unit of area than other oilseeds, reducing the need to clear forests relative to other crops. But that argument has failed to win over environmentalists who note that forest clearing for oil palm plantations has not slowed and is now expanding to other parts of the world, including West Africa, Central and South America, Papua New Guinea, and the South Pacific.

Norway is one of the world’s largest supporters of tropical forest conservation. It has committed three billion Norwegian krone ($500 million) per year to slowing deforestation, including billion dollar pledges to Indonesia and Brazil for forest protection programs. The country’s pension fund nevertheless continues to invest in companies associated with forest conversion, a sore point for activists


India bans tourists from tiger reserves

Rare sight: A tiger in India’s Ranthambore National Park
Flickr: bjoern

India’s Supreme Court has ordered a ban on tourism in more than 40 of the country’s central government-run tiger reserves.

In a landmark ruling, it warned that states that failed to implement the ban could face contempt proceedings and fines.

Tiger numbers have shrunk in India.

A century ago there were an estimated 100,000 tigers, but a census last year counted fewer than 2,000 in the wild.

Conservation groups have welcomed the ruling, describing it as a significant development.



Cargill Admits Buying Palm Oil from Illegally Cleared Orangutan Habitat | RAN

Photo Courtesy of

Chelsea Matthews, RAN

Last week, Cargill admitted to doing business with a very dodgy plantation company in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) that has illegally cleared thousands of hectares of orangutan habitat — and has even allegedly hired people to hunt down and kill orangutans.

Cargill admitted to Reuters that it bought at least one shipment of palm oil from PT Best in 2011, the holding group that owns the contested palm oil concession. It is likely Cargill also bought from them in the past and continues to do so today. In response to inquiries by Reuters’ journalist, Cargill said it will stop buying from the firm “if any illegality was proven.”

This is quite embarrassing for Cargill because the illegality is already publicly acknowledged by the Indonesian government after months of digesting a hard-hitting investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), and there is no doubt that thousands of hectares of orangutan habitat is already destroyed. EIA’s report, “Testing the Law”, documents how the 23,000 hectare (57,500 acre) concession was cleared and developed in violation of multiple Indonesian laws.

This is by no means the first time Cargill has been linked to egregious instances of deforestation and destruction of orangutan habitat. In recent months, RAN has highlighted Cargill’s supply chain connections to the destruction of the Tripa rainforest in Sumatra — one of the world’s most ecologically important rainforests and home to the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan. We have also been working to bring the urgent message about Cargill’s involvement in orangutan extinction to the company’s home town, Wayzata, Minnesota with a billboard, a robust print and online ad campaign, and thousands of publicly placed ads across the state. So far, Cargill has remained uncharacteristically silent, further suggesting it has something to hide.

This is yet another case in point that raises major red flags around Cargill’s commitment to what it calls a “100% sustainable supply chain.” Cargill says it “wants to play a leading role in working towards sustainable palm supply and use through the RSPO, and through our own actions”, going on to claim: “As such we have established a corporate sustainability commitment for our palm oil products.” Clearly, this commitment is not going far enough.

Here’s why more transparency is so clearly needed from the company: In the past, Cargill has said it has a “no-trade list” of companies it will not do business with. In 2009, Rainforest Action Network released a case study that documented illegal rainforest clearing by palm oil company Duta Palma on the lands of the Semunying Jaya community in Borneo. Social conflict continues today between the Semunying Jaya community and Duta Palma. Despite Cargill claiming that Duta Palma was on their “no-trade list,” how can consumers be sure Cargill is not sourcing from Duta Palma when, to this day, a no-trade list has yet to be made public?

As the largest importer of palm oil into the US, Cargill is using membership with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as its only filter to keep controversial palm oil out of its supply chain. Without its own safeguards around deforestation, human rights and species and climate impacts, the palm oil giant cannot ensure its supply chain does not include palm oil from controversial plantation holders like the ones operating in Tripa and PT Best. Without supply chain safeguards, Cargill is taking a huge risk by claiming its supply chain is devoid of controversy when environmental groups continue to link the company’s supply chain to shameful practices.

Environment Ministry Targets Plantation Firms Accused of Sumatra Forest Clearing

The Jakarta Globe | Fidelis E. Satriastanti | July 23, 2012

Fires continued to be set in Tripa’s peat forestl, 13 June 2012, Aceh province, Sumatra, Indonesia. According to a field team from the coalition of NGO’s to protect Tripa, that visited the area. Fires are continuing to be lit in the highly threatened Tripa Peat Forest for palm oil plantations despite assurances from the Indonesian central government that ‘triple track’ legal action was underway and a small area of the Peat Forest had returned to the moratorium map central to the multibillion agreement between Indonesia and Norway to reduce carbon emission from burning the carbon dense Peat Forests. Photo: Paul Hilton/SOCP/YEL (HANDOUT PHOTO, EDITORIAL USE ONLY)

The Environment Ministry is investigating eight plantation companies in Sumatra for allegedly clearing nearly 4,000 hectares of forest using slash-and-burn methods.

Arief Yuwono, the minister’s deputy for environmental damage control and climate change, said on Sunday that the companies were believed to have burned down more than 3,800 hectares of forest.

“Two of the companies are in Riau, four are in South Sumatra and two are in Aceh,” he said.

He added that the ministry was also investigating some local officials involved in issuing permits to the companies.

The investigation comes as the Environment Ministry prioritizes measures to prevent haze as a result of forest fires on the island and particularly in Riau, which is set to host the 18th National Games in September.

Purwasto Saroprayogi, head of the ministry’s forest fire monitoring department, said the areas of top priority were Pelalawan and Rokan Hilir districts in Riau.

“We’re giving priority to these two regions because the number of forest fire hot spots detected there is quite high,” Purwasto said.

He added that there was a risk of more fires spreading in the province because of the hot spots.

He said that under the ministry’s Fire Danger Rating System, officials now had a better understanding of how the fires were spreading.

“Whereas before we could only monitor once every seven days, now we can do it once every three days,” Purwasto said.

As of July 15, there were 2,643 hot spots detected in Riau this year, or more than half of the 4,876 detected across Indonesia by a US satellite. South Sumatra accounted for 1,180 hot spots, while West Kalimantan had 1,053.

In Riau, most of the hot spots were concentrated in Pelalawan district, with 527, followed by Bengkalis and Rokan Hilir.

Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya warned that the number of fires would increase as the dry season continued, fanned in part by the “El Nino” phenomenon in October.

“Based on the information from the FDRS and predictions of decreased rainfall, there will be a high potential of forest fires in the eight most prone provinces of North and South Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, and [all of] Kalimantan,” he said as quoted by environmental website

REDD+ Task Force Press Release

for .pdf version in English click here

untuk versi Bahasa Indonesia klik disini


Jakarta, 18 July – The Head of the Presidential Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4) and Chairman of the REDD+ Task Force, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, continues to follow up and monitor authorities in Aceh with concrete measures on developments related to his letter dated 3 July 2012 to the Governor of Aceh requesting the revocation of the licenses and permits of two companies whose activities are found to be in violation of several legal provisions.

UKP4 has been leading the strong government initiative since April 2012 in investigating the case of illegal land clearing through systematic and deliberate forest fires by two companies in the area of Rawa Tripa, close to the globally renowned Leuser Ecosystem Area and home to protected peat lands and endangered bio-diversity. Several NGOs as well as members of the public had also raised this issue and petitioned the government to take appropriate action.

Investigations carried out under the directions of UKP4 and REDD+ Task Force in April 2012 clearly established that violations had taken place under Law number 18/2004 concerning Plantation; Law number 32/2009 concerning Living Environment Protection and Management; and Law number 26/2007 concerning Spatial Planning as well as Presidential Decree number 32/1990 concerning Protected Area Management.

Letters were sent to the Ministry of Environment and the Head of the Indonesian National Police demanding thorough investigations. These investigations further revealed several irregularities in the issuance of permits as well as blatant violation of several laws governing the conversion of land use. On 3 July, a team from UKP4/REDD+ Task Force comprising the Heads of the Working Groups on Legal Review and Moratorium Monitoring travelled to Aceh to hold meetings with provincial officials. They also conducted aerial surveys of the forest fires which confirmed that the two companies continued to act not only in gross violation of the applicable laws but also in complete disregard for conservation of endangered bio-diversity and concerned public opinion.

A letter dated 3 July from the Head of the Presidential Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4) and Chairman of the REDD+ Task Force, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto to the Governor of Aceh Province in Nangroe Aceh Darussalam, Dr. Zaini Abdullah, requesting the revocation of Plantation and Cultivation Permit (IUP-B) issued to Surya Panen Subur (PT SPS 2) and Permit Letter Number 525/BP2T/5322/2011 dated 25 August 2011 issued in the name of Kalista Alam (PT KA) was handed over to the Regional Secretary (SEKDA) during this visit.

In a bid to sensitize the provincial authorities to the various provisions in the Moratorium Decree that is part of the UKP4 and REDD+ Task Force mandate, the following six aspects were also outlined in a list presented to the provincial authorities:

1. The Moratorium is intended for all activities concerning land-based permits in Rawa Tripa to prevent degradation and to find comprehensive solution for economic, conservation and social needs.

2. Conducting scientific research or comprehensive inventory to identify the whole bio-psychical characteristics in Rawa Tripa including hydrological integrity, chemical concentration, as well as its mineral soil. This research is required, among others, to define area delineation which is targeted as the protected area (core peat area) as well as for the use of buffer zone.

3. Based on the complete understanding, it is necessary to accelerate the finalization of Spatial Planning for Leuser Ecosystem area, in particular Rawa Tripa. This Spatial Planning will be adopted by and/or adjusted to the ongoing development of Spatial Planning of Aceh Province.

4. Collaboratively preparing a plan for comprehensive protection and management in Rawa Tripa Area so as to achieve a win-win solution in the context of conservation, economy, and social needs. For example, the existing plantation activity in the area must be halted and moved to another suitable land (land swap), or the activity is allowed to run provided that their business concept is changed into ecosystem restoration, for instance, by replacing palm oil with ramin and jelutung (Dyera Costulata) which are more suitable with the swampy peat ecosystem.

5. Strengthening the ongoing legal measures (criminal, administrative, and civil) so as to get swift conclusions. Providing backup to comprehensive legal reviews particularly of the issued permits for Leuser Ecosystem Area – specifically the Rawa Tripa area.

6. Regain public trust in the government, such as by conducting corrective measures for the practices committed by the security apparatus in the field, for example by taking stern measure against unscrupulous apparatus/Indonesian Military for intimidating the community and asking the police/Indonesian Military stations to move out from the concession area (company).
This cooperation and collaboration at the national and provincial level is hoped to set a positive precedent and send a strong signal that there will be zero tolerance for violations endangering the environment and the country’s rich natural resources and bio-diversity. UKP4/REDD+ Task Force will continue to review other permits that may have been improperly issued and also monitor activities of the license or permit holders to ensure that such acts are not repeated.

For further information please contact
Chair of Communication and Stakeholders Engagement Working Group
REDD+ Task Force
Chandra Kirana

Former Aceh Governor’s story about the Permit in Tripa | The Globe Journal

Article was originally published by in The Globe Journal, free translation by Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP)

Firman Hidayat | The Globe Journal

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 17:30 WIB

Banda Aceh – After WALHI Aceh massively exposed the controversial ‘in principle’ permit, Irwandi Yusuf finally admitted that he regretted issuing it and wants to revoke it. There was pressure on me to issue the ‘in principle’ permit, there was support for it from several people and agencies.

“I regret signing the permit for PT. Kalista Alam,” said the former Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf.

Irwandi Yusuf’s remorse suggests he was forced to issue the in principle permit. “The permit I issued was no different from one issued by the Regent of Nagan Raya, and there was no influence at all,” said Irwandi Yusuf.

The problem of the permit for PT. Kalista Alam is very unfortunate. Irwandi himself also admitted that he had previously rejected the company’s request many times. “I ‘kicked it aside’ almost for two years, until evaluations eventually appeared from the provincial Forestry Office regarding the Leuser Ecosystem issue and a letter from the Police stating that the company had no legal problems,” said Irwandi convincingly.

“It could actually have been a problem if I had just ignored these letters. I could have been sued in the Administrative Court, since all requirements for the permit appeared to be fulfilled,” he continued.

Still, Irwandi did not simply rely on the supporting recommendations of these others, so he consulted with Aceh Green, and it appeared the Tripa Peat Swamp was not included in the moratorium map issued by President SBY.

Then there was an assessment or analysis by the Provincial Forestry Department regarding the  Leuser Ecosystem, identifying that the utilisation of the area of the Leuser Ecosystem did not preclude this, if there was already an existing permit. “Tripa Peat Swamp is within the Leuser Ecosystem, but there is an exception that already existing permits (i.e. when the Ecosystem was established) must be respected, and what’s more, the official map of the Leuser Ecosystem was only newly made,” said Irwandi Yusuf.

“I only issued an “in principle” permit, with the Regent of Nagan Raya, whilst the concession permit itself comes from the Central Government, which the company itself takes care of,” said Irwandi during his press conference at Rumoh Aceh on Wednesday (18/07) lunchtime.

“I regret that I signed it, but since the Police said there was no problem, and as the Head of the District Parliament in Nagan Raya , Samsuardi (also known as Juragan), and a Chinese person came to see me, and they (Juragan and the Chinese person) said that they wanted to accommodate 30% plasma with the plantation, since, according to them, many community members from Nagan Raya are still unemployed, I then signed the permit,” stressed Irwandi Yusuf.

Actually, the Tripa problem lies with the company, PT Kallista Alam. According to the former Governor of Aceh, they still do not have a full concession permit, but the company has already started work. “If they don’t yet have the concession permit and they are already working that is clearly wrong,” he repeated.

“I would really like to revoke that permit letter,” said Irwandi Yusuf, closing the interview.

Revoke All Permits

The Coalition Team to Save the Tripa Swamps (TKPRT) urged the current Governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, to send a recommendation to related Ministries regarding the withdrawal of all concession permits in the Tripa Peat Swamp, Nagan Raya District.

TKPRT’s spokesperson, Irsadi is waiting to see if Aceh’s Governor is brave enough to apply an immediate moratorium on all activities by concessions in the Tripa Peat Swamp and then revoke all permits within Tripa.

Irsadi has also expressed sincere appreciation to the UKP4 (REDD+ Task Force) in Jakarta, who have already written to the Governor of Aceh to revoke the permits of two of the problem companies, namely PT. Kallista Alam and PT. Surya Panen Subur-2.

“It would be far better to cancel all the concession permits in the Tripa Peat Swamps,” emphasized Irsadi.


Provincial Forestry Office is Provincial Branch of Department of Forestry on National Level

Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority is Provincial Government Agency managing Leuser Ecosystem

Black Trail of The Green Governor

This article originally published in TEMPO Magazine in July 17, 2012
Free translation by Adji Darsoyo

Tripa Peat Swamp Forest, one of the many “treasures” of Aceh Province, is on the edge of total destruction. Joint Forces form Jakarta continue investigating the legal violation leading to the destruction.

Amongst the scattered tree trunks and branches burnt into charcoal, Basuki Wasis again asked his staff to drill the soil with a pipe. The first pipe went into the ground. The second and the third pipes, both connected to the first one, each of 1 m long, drilled in without any resistance. Only the fourth pipe left 40 cm above the ground surface.

After collecting sample from the drill bit, Basuki made a note in his note book:  peat depth in that area measured 3.6 m. “This is the evidence of violation of the regulation restricting planting on peatland,” said the researchers from the Lab for Forest Influence of the Forest Ecology Division of IPB Bogor to Tempo, following the drilling, on Thursday two weeks ago.

On that day, Basuki and his team drilled on 6 different spots within the Village Aloe Batang Bruek of the Sub district Darul Makmur in Aceh’s Nagan Raya District. From that particular area within the concession of PT. Kallista Alam, the team also collected samples of burnt trees, charcoal and ashes. “Those are evidences for the lawsuit against Kallista,” said Bayu Hardjanto, an investigator from the Ministry of Environment.

This is the x-time that investigators from Jakarte “flew over” to Tripa Peat Swamp. The first visit on last May 4, investigators from the Central Police and from the Attorney General joined the team. After the inferno of the destruction of thousands of hectares in Tripa was published both in national and international media, joint investigator team from Jakarta moved back and forth to Tripa. They acted directly under the supervision of UKP4.

Now, Tripa Peat Swamp Forest is on the edge of total destruction. In the early 80’s, this particular peat swamp forest areas on the west coast of Aceh covered no less than 62,000 ha. Now, it remains not more than 17,000 ha only. And continues to shrink, since a number of companies continue relentlessly to burn the forest and turn it in oil palm plantations.

Even at the time Tripa was struggling, the Governor of Aceh Irwandi Yusuf has issued a permit for additional 1, 605 plantation area to PT Kallista Alam. PT Kallista is the most active company in Tripa after the peace agreement of Aceh in 2005.

And this despite the Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 issued by SBY, known as “Inpres Moratorium”, just several months before Irwandi issued the permit. Through the instruction dated on May 20, 2011, the President instructed all Ministries and related agencies to temporarily halt any permit to clear peat swamp forest.

So, according to the Head of UKP4, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the area of Tripa Peat Swamp has been included in the moratorium map. “The status of Tripa has been determined as a non-convertible area,” said Kuntoro, who was also the Head of the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency for Aceh and Nias.

Irwandi’s move breaching the moratorium has confused many circles. Because, he was well known as the “green” figure or pro-environment. In 2010, for example, Irwandi received an award from the Ministry of Environment based on his dedication towards the environment.

WALHI refer to the case of Tripa as a portrait representing various cases of Indonesian forest destructions. “There is collusion between top officials and private companies to claim community’s land, abandoning the importance of the environment,” said Executive Director of WALHI Aceh, T.M. Zulfikar.

On November 23, 2011, WALHI filed a lawsuit against the issuance of the permit for PT. Kallista Alam by Irwandi. But the panel of Judges rejected the case last April with the reason that both parties have previously not undergo a mediation process outside the court room.

Environmental activist also pointed out that the police and the national military are behind Kallista. According to Halim Gurning, the Coordinator of Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari in Nagan Raya, the field office and the plantation area of Kallista are so far protected by the police and the military. They also forbid the community and environmental activist from entering the area of PT. Kallista Alam. Their commander threatened us and he sent his men to spy on our office,” said Halim.

According to Tempo’s source, the “trace” of those forces was still smelled during the visit of the joint investigators. At that time, there were three gate huts standing in a row, the Mobile Brigade on the left, the military in the middle and the police on the right. In front of those huts stood a signboard “Police and Military Post”. Besides, the team of investigators has also found an official military vehicle. But, as Tempo visited two weeks ago, the police and military attributes have already been cleaned up.

The team of investigators has presenter their findings before the Head of UKP4 consisting of 5 different kinds of legal violations in Tripa. The investigators stated that they’ve found the fact that PT Kallista Alam has conducted land clearing before granted with plantation permit by Irwandi. This is considered to be a violation against the Law on Plantation.

To the investigators, the legal staff of Kallista Alam admitted that the company has started clearing the land since 2009. A year after they start planting oil palm saplings. Same confession has been addressed by Kallista’s field staff to the Ministry of Forestry and the Vice Chairman of the People Assembly, Farhan Hamid, who is originally from Aceh, during their site visit last May.

The next violation is that Kallista carried out clearing by burning activities. According to an investigator, clearing by burning is much cheaper, since the company only pays for IDR 2 million per ha. In the contrary, appropriate land clearing in accordance with the regulation can cost IDDR 60 million per ha. Even though it is cheap, clearing by burning violates Plantation and Environmental Laws. According to the investigators, the 1,605 ha of Kallista also lies within Leuser Ecosystem, which is appointed as National Strategic Area. Land clearing within this area also violates the Law on Spatial Planning.

Field investigation also proved that the permit of Kallista Alam does not fulfil the requirements, since the permit was issued for an area of peat more than 3 m deep. In this case, the joint investigation suspected that the permit documents were manipulated.

Even though the case is bright and clear, no suspect has been announce by the investigators. According to Deputy VI of the Ministry of Environment, Sudarijono, so far they’ve just interrogated a number of witnesses. “They are either from the Office of Forestry, plantation manager or from the community, who all have witnessed the fires,” he said.

One of Kallista’s project leader, Alvis, said that his company has fulfilled all procedural requirements to obtain the land clearing permit in Tripa Peat Swamp. Concerning the shrinking area of Tripa, he complained why only Kallista was exposed. “There are many companies operating here,” said Alvis.

Irwandi has indeed not been investigated. Since he failed in the last April’s governor election, he spent more time in Malaysia. Before leaving for Malaysia, he told to a number of journalists that he has rejected Kallista request many times. He claimed that he knows that the plot of land requested by Kallista is situated within Leuser Ecosystem. Irwandi signed the permit after having the recommendation from various parties, such as the Bupati, the Office of Forestry and the Police.

Therefore, from the legal perspective, he is sure that the permit for Kallista was not problematic. But, “Personally,  I prefer to revoke the permit,” said the former high rank figure of the Free Aceh Movement as quoted by Modus Aceh Magazine of June 10. “At that time, I acted against my own conscience.”

The Central Police’s Crime Director, Brig. Gen. Gatot Subiyaktoro, considered that the permit issued by Irwandy was stained with awkwardness. For example, Governor Irwandi issued the permit based on the principle license issue by the Bupati of Nagan Raya on February 5, 2008, which was expired on February 5, 2011. “How come he referred to expired license?” said Gatot, who visited Aceh wo weeks ago.

Roasted in Tripa Peat Swamp | TEMPO Magazine

This article was published in TEMPO Magazine on July 17, 2012.
Free translation by Adji Darsoyo

Roasted In Tripa Peat Swamp

Not only orangutans are displaced through the burning of peatland. Community from the surrounding areas also became hostile towards the environment of Tripa Peat Swamp.

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta–The skull of the primate simply lied under a burnt trunk of a tree, measuring not more than 1 1/2 times of a tennis ball. Tempo took the opportunity to take picture of the also burnt skull from top to bottom. Until then, nobody commented.

But, we attempt to lift it, two guys who were in silece, firmly reminded. “Don’t remove it. It is evidence,” said Indriyanto, an activist from Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari, who has been accompanying Tempo exploring Tripa Peat Swamp of Nagan Raya, Aceh.

Indriyanto and Suratman, local community members guiding the path, were convinced that the skull belonged to burnt orangutan infant, since two weeks earlier they still saw two orangutans in that peat swamp area, that was about to be converted into oil palm plantation. At that particular time, trees were still stanging within the area occupied by PT. Kallista Alam and PT. Surya Panen Subur.

Within 2011-2012, Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari and the Agency for Natural Concervation – Aceh has evacuated 6 orangutans from Tripa Peat Swamp. Indriyanto, together with Suratman, have brought those scarce animas to an intact forest area in Aceh Tengah.

Currently, Tripa Peat Swamp can hardly appear as home for orangutan. As far eyes can see, tree trunks and branches are scattered, turned into charcoal. Smoke was still rising in many places. To avoid sinking into collapsed peat caused by burning, one had to step on the remaining trunks and roots. In the middle of this ocean of charcoal, GPS was very useful to determine the direction. “In the past, I used to put bamboo fish trap under these trunks and roots to catch catfish,” recalled Suratman.

After crossing a drainage canal of 5m wide seperating the area of  PT Kallista and PT Surya, Suratman stood on the pile of roots of a fallen tree. He pulled out a binoculars and observed the far lying obserrvation tower. “Empty,” he said. this means that we were saved to enter the hundreds hectares area that is divided into blocks through the drainage canals. In certain blocks, palm oil seedlings are seen growing up to 50 cm height.


Since last May, dozens of invesigators from the Central Police and from the Ministry of Environment continued to interrogate the management of  PT Kallista Alam and PT Surya Panen Subur. They are in terms of investigating two cases of legal violation: clearing by burning and planting in more than 3 m deep peat.

Oil palm plantations are the source of the peat destruction in Tripa and in other sites within Aceh. Before encroachment and transformation into oil palm plantation, in the 80s, this peatland in the west coast of Aceh has been preserving and regulating water, just like sponges. It absorbs water during rainy season to prevent from flood. Then, it releases the water bit by bit during dry season to prevent from drought.

Not less important, Tripa Peat Swamp forest was a comfortable living space for Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). Most of the Sumatran orangutans’ population live in this particular coastal peat swamp of Aceh full of palms and rattans. The rest are distributed within the hinterland forest of Leuser Ecosystem and North Sumatra Province.

Until the beginning of the 90’s, the number of orangutans in this 62,000 ha of Tripa Peat Swamp reached up tp 1,000. Disaster occurred as the Indonesian Government of New Order era issued land concessions (HGU) to a number of private companies in 1991. Those companies cleared the peat forest and transformed it in oil palm plantations.

Now, 7 companies are in the possession of concession within Tripa Peat Swamp. Each occupies between 3,000 to 13,000 ha. Hence, the remaining peatland are around 17,000 ha. Orangutan experts considered that the remaining area is too small for around 280 orangutan estimated to surive in Tripa Peat Swamp.

According to Ian Singleton, the Conservation Director of Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, most of the burning parts of Tripa Peat Swamp forest are orangutan habitat. “Before, we found many orangutans there,” he said. On the last June 10, Ian was taken by Suratman and Indriyanto to see the skull suspected to be of an orangutan. After showing its photo to a friend, a taxonomy, the skull was identified to be of a crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) or pig-tail macaque (Macaca nemestrina).

Tens of drainage canals constructed by oil palm plantations have absorbed the water from the peat. Even if it was not burnt, the trees producing fruits for the orangutan would die due to dryness. Refered to the last year’s research, Singleton estimated that the peat swamp forest and orangutan of Tripa will vanish in 2015.


Within the past recent years, Ali Basyiah always spent the day top-less. This villager of Kuala Seumayam in the Sub district of Darul Makmur, Nagan Raya, cannot stand the heat. Even at night, his wife and children sleeps with electric fan. “The temperature increased since oil palm companies operates here,” said Ali, whose village is situated on the edge of PT. Kalista Alam’s plantation areas.

According to temperature measurement of 14 November 2007, the temperature in the surrounding of Tripa Peat Swamp has increased drastically. At 9.30 am, the temperature is already 37 degree celcius. Within three hours, it increases to 43 degree. NOw, after 5 years, Ali feels that the temperature in his village became higher.

Ali did not only suffer because of the temperature alone. His income from fishing and from collecting sweet water shells is decreasing. As Tripa Peat Swamp forest was still intact, Ali only needed to install his bamboo fish trap under a tree within the forest. At that time, he could catch averagely 30 kg of catfish and 3 sacks of sweet water shells. Those times are now history. Now, Ali can only catch te maximum of 10 kg catfish in a day. And for that he had to search to the upstream.

Executive Director of WALHI Aceh, T.M. Zulfikar, said that the experience of the community in the surrounding of Tripa Peat Swamp in the past 5 years is the opposite to the Aceh Green programme launched by the former Governor Irwandi Yusuf after his inauguration i the beginning of 2007.

Zulfikar then revealed the data. Before 2007, forest distruction in Aceh was averagely 20,000 ha per year. After 2007, the forest destruction in Aceh increased between 23,000 and 40,000 ha per year. “The Government of Aceh appeared to have swallowed it own word,” said Adnan N.S. from the Supervisory Board of Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari.


Investigated When Tripa Almost Perish | TEMPO Magazine

this article was originally published in TEMPO Magazine on July 22, 2012
Free Translation by Adji Darsoyo

Within the past two decades, the total area of Tripa Peat Swamp has lost almost 42 thousands of hectares. Allegation of legal violation was only investigated just before the peatlands and its contents were almost perished.

Early 1990

Primary forest has still been covering the 62 thousand hectares of Tripa Peat Swamp. There were approx.. 1,000 orangutan in the area.


The Government issued land concessions for 5 companies to operate plantation in Tripa Peat Swamp. One of them is PT Kallista Alam. The total of land concession issued covers 35 thousand hectares.


Increasing conflict in Aceh. A number of companies ceased their operations.


Post tsunami and after Helsinki peace agreement was signed, the companies started operating.

5 Febuari 2008

PT Kallista Alam submitted an application to an area extension of 1,605 ha.


WALHI Indonesia noted that other companies have extended their plantation area up to 8,000 ha.


PT Kallista drained and cleared the peatland. MODIS Satellite’s record show that from 591 detected hotspots, 203 are within the area of PT Kallista.


20 Mei

Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on the Moratorium on New Permit in Primary Forest and Peatlands was issued.

25 August

The Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, issued a plantation permit for PT Kallista.

23 November

WALHI Aceh filed a lawsuit against the Governor of Aceh at the Administrative Court.



  •  The Administrative Court of Banda Aceh rejected the lawsuit of WALHI
  • Irwandi Yusuf was succeeded by Zaini Abdullah, who won the election for Aceh Governor

Beginning of May

Joint investigators started investigating the allegation of legal violation in Tripa Peat Swamp. Now, only 17 thousand hectare remain in Tripa Peat Swamp, with only 250 orangutans left.


Without rescue, the peatland and the orangutans in Tripa Peat Swamp are predicted to vanish.