The Condition of Tripa Peat Swamp Is Critical, All Drainage Canals Should Be Blocked

Atjeh Post

COMMUNITY LAWYERS COALITION TEAM | Free translation by Adji Darsoyo

ALL canals of the palm oil plantations in Tripa Peat Swamp within the Leuser Ecosystem have to be blocked to restore the optimal function of the swamp ecosystem. Otherwise,  it will lead to a total destruction that can also lead to the vanishing of the community in its interior, since the subsidence caused leads to its vulnerability towards disaster. Peat fires increased recently caused by the canals that increase the vulnerability towards fire. The government has to immediately respond to the current situation in Tripa and to take concrete action to stop the destruction of Tripa. Otherwise, this will give an impression that the government only protects the interest of oil palm companies without any attention towards community’s interest. The condition of Tripa is currently extremely critical and needs immediate solution. Dried peat layers burns easily and lots of orangutans were burnt to death.

Investigation carried out by the authorities related to various violation in Tripa, Aceh, has not been finalised, but peat burning continues, even in larger scale. Increased peat burning in Tripa shows that the Indonesian Government fails to stop deforestation. Orangutan population in this particular area is vanishing, unless all illegal activities in the area were ceased as immediate as possible. A wave of large scale peat burning swept across Tripa Peat Swamp forest, reflecting the rapid destruction of destruction and consistent ignorance towards Indonesian National Law by oil palm companies within the protected Leuser Ecosystem, despite the investigation at national level was launched last month, an investigation, which findings has not been made public. New records on the number of fires has been recorded in Sumatra by fire or hotspot observation satellite that has been confirmed by field staff last week through film and pictures documentary. Fires occurred in palm oil concession areas in the whole Tripa. Five companies currently active in Tripa has responded to the increased media observations and investigations by increasing the security of their plantation. Some are even guarded by military and police force that are positioned along the access road during the illegal slash and burn occurred in the plantation areas.

Destructive activities continue to be conducted by the plantation companies during the on-going investigation. This shows clear ignorance  towards Indonesian laws and investigating authorities. This is a weird event and the government should have stopped this.

Under such condition, I’d like to address to the President to issue direct instructions to halt the wide spread illegal destruction of Tripa. Not only giving nice  speeches, while the facts on the field are completely different.

There is no doubt that each of the company violate several laws. Meanwhile, we very much realise and appreciate as well as support the on-going investigation conducted by the Ministry of Environment, even though it has been proven to be slow. Those companies should have been ordered to immediately stop, so that the law enforcement in forestry sector can proceed, since otherwise the peat forest and the community of Tripa will disappear forever. One of the companies operating in Tripa, PT. Kallista Alam, has been brought before the  court and the company’s plantation area was re-included in the 2nd revision of the moratorium map on May 25, 2012 that it is since restricted for deforestation and degradation.

The area has certainly been a subject of an ongoing legal battle, since it has clearly violated the National Law No. 26/2007 on Spatial Planning and the Government Regulation No. 26/2008 related to the permit for this particular area within the National Strategic Area (Kawasan Ekosistem Leuser) with protecting function, where actually no permit to be issued for any  destructive activity towards the protecting function of the ecosystem, and where all destructive activities are to be ceased and the devastated area to be rehabilitated. Fires raged last week in the northern side of the area of PT. Kallista Alam.much of the clearly elaborated fires were also observed within the area of PT. Surya Panen Subur-2, PT. Cemerlang Abadi, PT. Gelora Sawita Makmur, PT. Dua Perkasa Lestari and within the area known as the former area of  PT. Patriot Guna Sakti Abadi, although for the latter, no official permit seemed to be issued.

“It is indeed a horrible situation,” said Dr. Ian Singleton from Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP). “Every time I visited Tripa during the past 12 months, I always found several orangutans hanging to survive at forest edge. It was so easy to find them and we have evacuated some lucky ones to other, more secure areas. But when you look at the speed of the wave of destruction and the condition of the remaining forest, there is not even a single doubt that lots of orangutans died caused by the fire itself, or starved to death due to the lost of habitat and food source,” he said.

The Tripa Peat Swamp Forest has attracted many and quite large international attentions, many of which focused on the facts that the burning of Tripa Peat Swamp Forest became a subject of humiliation towards the US$ 1 billion dollar agreement between the Indonesian and the Norwegian Government to reduce emission from deforestation and forest degradation, also known as REDD+ Agreement, since the peat swamp of Tripa absorbs huge amount of carbon released to the atmosphere.

Dr. Singleton also pointed out that “There is a viable orangutan population in Tripa, but it vanishes quickly, and there are never-utilized cleared forest as well. All those companies should have received instructions to halt all destructive operations during the investigation process conducted by the authorities. Ideally, appropriate law suit and prosecution are to be applied to save Tripa included its orangutan population and to rehabilitate the area, due to its huge contribution to the livelihood of the local community.”

“But if there is no immediate halt, then everything will be lost for the sake of the interest of only a few people, who are already very rich and living somewhere else. All these don’t make any sense at all, not environmentally friendly or economically even not profitable. This is a large-scale greed. An outrageous scale of greed,” said Dr. Ian Singleton.

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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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