Operation Aceh – Wildlife Asia’s mission to save critical rainforest facing imminent threat of destruction
After conservationists seemingly won a small victory in 2012 to protect the Tripa peat forest in Aceh, a new, far more serious threat to Indonesia’s forests and wildlife has emerged.
The Indonesian Government appears poised to approve a proposal to free up 1.2 million hectares of protected virgin rainforest on Sumatra island for commercial exploitation.
Conversion of this primary rainforest could ultimately mean extinction for the last remaining populations of Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran rhino and elephant. The world renowned Leuser ecosystem is the only remaining forest to contain all of these species along with tigers, sunbears, gibbons, tapirs and leopards. It symbolises the enormous biodiversity teetering on a knife edge in Indonesia.
In a frightening development last week, Canadian mining company East Asia Minerals, said the plan to clear 1.2 million hectares was “positive news” for mining in the area.
An Indonesian forestry ministry spokesman says the government aims to approve the plan “in up to a month”.
In a strangely bold admission, East Asia Minerals 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 “protected forest” to a “production forest”.
Their statement suggests that they are effectively driving public policy, namely spatial planning, in Aceh.
It is imperative that spatial planning be based on sound scientific analysis of land suitability and environmental risks and it is outrageous to consider that such decisions could be driven by foreign companies with considerable financial incentive and complete disregard for the future wellbeing of local communities and a sustainable economy for Aceh.
Illegal logging and mining is already occurring in these concessions with devastating consequences for both the forest and the incredible wildlife it supports. The proposed changes to the spatial plan would also approve an extensive new network of roads, resulting in even further forest destruction and encroachment. In an area already prone to natural disasters, this is an incredibly dangerous decision and one which will invariably result in an increased loss of lives and huge economic losses to local communities.
Australian based conservation organisation, Wildlife Asia spokesperson, Clare Campbell said “Approval of the plan to free up this enormous area of forest for mining, paper and palm oil plantations is an environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions. Not only is this area the last chance for several species already in serious trouble but it also contains critical carbon sinks and forests that are essential for food security, regulating water flow and mitigating climate change. This will be devastating for the future of communities living in these areas as well as the broader region”.
Ms Campbell stated that “We have to stand strong against decisions that lack foresight. Wildlife Asia represents the wildlife, the people of Indonesia and the people of Australia. Forest destruction of this magnitude eventually impacts upon us all. We won’t compromise, the planet has been compromised enough. When does it stop?”
Wildlife Asia this week launched a campaign to raise funds to support local organisations in their mission to influence government decisions. Ms Campbell added “Campaigning at this level takes serious time and money and we need to pull in the heavyweights on this one. Once it’s gone, it’s gone…the future of the Sumatran orangutan, the Sumatran rhino and the people of Sumatra need the right decision to be made here. I urge all Australians to dig deep and assist us in any way possible”
Donations can be made here www.givenow.com.au/wildlifeasia
Wildlife Asia Director, Clare Campbell, is available for interviews and can be contacted on 0438 992 325
A Vancouver-based mining company is under attack for a proposal that could lead to the destruction of more than one million hectares of protected forests in a region of Sumatra known for its endangered wildlife.
East Asia Minerals Corp. denies it is behind a plan to take a swath of protected forest and reclassify it as “production forest.” But a number of environmental groups, some with wide international connections, are turning up the heat on the issue, and are blaming the company for a proposed deal that would open 1.2 million hectares of jungle to mining, logging and conversion to palm-oil plantations.
Kevin Vallely, a Canadian adventurer whose expeditions have taken him to some of the wildest places on the planet, said the rain forest of northern Sumatra is an international treasure that should be protected.
“It’s one of the last, massive, great tropical rain forest jungles left in the world,” he said. “This jungle is utterly magnificent. You go in there and you know it’s a different place. It’s teeming with wildlife. Why would we want to cut down one of the world’s most amazing forests?”
The area, which includes the Leuser National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the only place in the world where tigers, elephants, orangutans and rhinos co-exist.
But Mr. Vallely, a North Vancouver architect who travelled through the region a few years ago, said some of the animals there – notably the endangered Sumatran rhino – are on the verge of extinction.
“There are something like 20 of them left,” he said. “If this [mining and logging] starts, you know it’s going to be the end of that rain-forest ecosystem … it’s over, end of story.”
That is the concern of a coalition of NGOs that includes Greenpeace South East Asia, Friends of the Earth Indonesia and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, among others.
The groups became alarmed recently when East Asia Minerals Corp. put out a press release announcing that the Indonesian government “is close to accepting a proposal to open 1.2 million hectares of forest” in Aceh province.
The news release suggested the company was actively involved in formulating the plan, which would make it easier to develop its Miwah gold-mining project, on the northern tip of Sumatra.
“The company is working closely with government officials in the country and have company representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from ‘protected forest’ to ‘production forest,’ ” stated the release.
Edward Rochette, CEO of East Asia Minerals and the company spokesman on the Sumatra mining project, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
Craig MacPhail, head of investor relations for the company, said he couldn’t discuss the Miwah project or the controversy over reclassifying protected forests. But he agreed to “clarify” the wording of the release.
He said the release was simply meant as a statement by the company to update investors on developments taking place in Sumatra.
The company, he said, is not behind the plan to open the forests to development and is simply not influential enough to guide the government of Sumatra in its policy development.
“The Ministry of Forestry [in Sumatra] has suggested plans to reclassify protected forests to production forests. That’s what they have done. We haven’t done that,” he said. “We haven’t been leading a campaign to strip the forests of Indonesia … we haven’t suggested it. We were informing our investor base [in the press release] … about what Aceh province had been putting forward.”
Mr. MacPhail said his company would like to stay out of the argument over the future of the protected forests in Sumatra. But he admitted “it’s gotten pretty hot” since the release came out last week.
It is probably going to get a lot hotter as word spreads that Sumatra’s iconic rain forest is about to be put on the chopping block.
The company is working closely with government officials in the country and have company representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from “protected forest” to “production forest.” East Asia Minerals has implemented a new Corporate Social Responsibility program and hired ex-government officials to help them with these efforts.
- Greenpeace: East Asia Mining Behind the Reclassification of Aceh’s Protection Forest (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- PRESS RELEASE: Aceh plans to clear 1.2 million hectares of protected forest trigger alarm over increase in landslides, floods and other natural disasters. (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Mining company working with Indonesian government to strip forest of protected status (guardian.co.uk)
Jakarta (ANTARA News) – A number of non-governmental organizations have urged the Indonesian government to extend two-year moratorium on deforestation which will expire in May 2013, to protect the country`s remaining forests and peat lands.
In May 2011, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed long-waited Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on Moratorium on New Logging Concessions for Primary Forests and Peat lands, after a prolonged tug of war between environmentalists and business lobbyists.
Under the moratorium, no new licenses for logging concessions in parts of the country`s primary forests and peat lands can be issued.
The ban is also expected to support the government`s commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent (or 41 percent with international assistance) by 2020, compared to business as usual. The nation aims to achieve 87 percent of this goal by reducing emissions from deforestation and peat land conversion.
Today, after the moratorium has been implemented for almost two years, some experts and environmentalists, however, believed the regulation needs to be extended, tightened and expanded because there have been many compromises so far.
Coinciding with the commemoration of the Earth Day on April 22, 2013, Greenpeace called on President Yudhoyono to extend the moratorium.
Not only to extend it, the government should strengthen the moratorium and expand its forest cover because the ban has been rather ineffective so far, said Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace Indonesia`s campaign coordinator.
The moratorium must be strengthened and extended for the sake of the climate, for the millions of people who depend on forests for their livelihood and for the survival of protected species threatened with extinction, such as Sumatran tigers, and orangutans, according to Greenpeace.
Previously, the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) also urged the government to extend the forest moratorium to prevent social and environmental conflicts in the future.
“If the moratorium is not extended, we are certain in the next five years, social and environmental conflicts would rise in the 25 million hectares of Indonesian forest area,” Forest and Large Scale Plantation Campaign Manager of Walhi Zenzi Suhadi said.
The government should not only suspend the forest concessions, but also improve the management of forest and concession areas as well as impose sanctions against violators, Suhadi said.
He said the moratorium had not been effectively conducted as Walhi had found some attempts by local administrations and authorities to deceive the moratorium by proposing concessions for residential area.
A member of the State Audit Agency (BPK) in charge of environmental audit, Ali Masykur Musa, said the moratorium should be evaluated because it has been ineffective so far.
One of the aspects that need evaluation is the law enforcement against environmental destroyers, he stated.
Another call for the moratorium extension came from the National Strategy Working Unit of the Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).
“We recommend the moratorium to be extended one or two more years as the government is not ready to institutionalize the permit and management for forest utilization,” spokesperson of the REDD+ Working Unit Mubariq said on a discussion on deforestation moratorium in early April 2013.
Mubariq said there were overlapping coordination in 15 state institutions regarding forest concessions. They even have different maps of forest concession areas.
Thus, the extension on the moratorium is needed to reorganize the management and the legal issues concerning forest concession right, as well as to finish the mapping in 11 prioritized provinces in the REDD+ program, Mubariq said.
In response to the calls from various parties, Indonesian Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan voiced the country`s commitment to extending the implementation of the moratorium.
He expressed the commitment when speaking in the tenth United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) held in Istanbul, Turkey, April 8-9, 2013, according to the forestry ministry in a statement recently.
During the 2009-2013 period, Indonesia has managed to reach averaged economic growth rate at 6.3 percent annually, despite the implementation of the moratorium, he said.
Indonesia has also managed to cut the deforestation rate from an average of 3.5 million hectares annually during the 1999-2002 period to around 450,000 ha during 2010-2011.
The forestry ministry is waiting for the President to make decision about the moratorium.
Recently, Environmental Affairs Minister Balthasar Kambuaya has expressed his support to the calls to extend the deforestation moratorium.
“The moratorium needs to be continued to protect our forests,”
the minister said here after launching “Towards Green Indonesia 2013” campaign on April 26, 2014.
Indonesia has the world`s third largest expanse of tropical forest after Brazil and the countries of the Congo basin.
The moratorium is applicable to primary forests and peat lands in conserved forests, protected forests, production forests and the other use area (APL). Logging concessions can still issued on secondary or degraded forests.
Based on the forestry ministry`s 2010 data, Indonesia has 64.2 million hectares of primary forests, 24.5 million hectares of peat lands. Meanwhile, 7.4 million hectares of peat lands are located inside primary forests. Secondary forests cover a total area of 36.6 million hectares.
According to the forestry ministry, the country has 294 forest concession right (HPH) holders occupying around 27.1 million hectare areas, with total log productions at about five million m3 annually.
It also has 244 industrial timber plantations (HTI) covering 9.8 million hectares of forest area, and with total productions at 14 million m3 per year; people`s plantation forest reserves covering 700,000 hectares; and people`s plantation forests covering approximately 12 million hectares with log productions at over 25 million m3 per annum.
Indonesia also has 354 primary forestry companies with total productions at 49.2 million m3 annually; seven pulp plants with total productions up to 8.5 million tons per annum; 1,257 furniture factories; 20 paper plants with total production at 10 million tons per year; and 2,500 building material factories. Over one million people are employed in the forestry sector.
Last year, Bogor-based CIFOR`s senior scientist Daniel Murdiyarso urged the government to continue to improve forest governance if the moratorium is to have a significant impact.
“Certainly improvement of the governance system is a long term thing. That is to say we [have to] manage forests differently, and that needs a lot of change, in terms of people`s mindset, the organisation, the institutions, the rules and regulations – there are a lot of things to be done,” he said.
Washington DC-based World Resources Institute (WRI) recently analyzed the indicative moratorium map released by the forestry ministry in July 2011 and concluded that the moratorium in its current state will not contribute to Indonesia`s greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of 26 percent by 2020 as announced in 2009.
Although there are 43.3 million hectares (ha) of primary forests and peat lands and significant carbon stocks within the boundaries of the indicative moratorium map (IMM), the questionable status of secondary forests, the exemption of existing concessions, and the limited enforcement of the moratorium boundaries may result in gains being negated by other land-use emissions, according to WRI.
The WRI, however, believes that long-term positive impacts can still be achieved if significant governance reforms are accomplished during the moratorium period.
Mas Achmad Santosa, head of the Working Group for Legal Review and Law Enforcement on the Indonesian REDD+ Taskforce, agreed the moratorium should be extended.
“To achieve governance reform and consensus in forest related issues and natural resource management, it will take time. So two years is not enough,” he said.
“We need to learn lessons from the past two years, we need to improve it, to sharpen it, and to be more specific what kind of reforms are needed,” Santosa added.
Seattle, WA — (SBWIRE) — 04/30/2013 — There are only several thousand Sumatran orangutans left in the wild and their existence is threatened by a pending development plan by the Indonesian government to develop 1.2 million hectares of some of the most environmentally sensitive forest in the world. This threatens the very existence of the last few remaining Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos, and elephants.
Palm Oil Consumer Action is urging US consumers to speak up for the orangutans with their buying decisions. According to LeAnn Fox, a spokesperson for POCA, United States consumers can influence decisions made in Indonesia simply by either boycotting products that use palm oil or insist that the brands they buy, use sustainable palm oil
“It is disappointing to see popular brands like Kelloggs, General Mills and Starbucks using tons of palm oil without having a truly sustainable palm oil policy. Looking at the Corporate Social Responsibility policies of these companies, you see great claims of sustainable practices. However, scientific data and reputable environmental groups decry the environmental disaster behind these companies use of palm oil. Groups including the WWF have long said that if nothing is done and quickly, unique species like the orangutans could become extinct in the wild in a a decade or so.
“Sustainable palm oil costs an average of $50 per ton from the US refiners of palm oil we spoke to” said Ms. Fox. “When you break that down into product cost its quite literally pennies per purchase of our favorite products. We are aware that previous experience with eco-friendly products has meant much higher retail prices but in the case of palm oil, its such a small ingredient in most products that $50 per ton additional cost for sustainable palm oil, companies really do not have an excuse to not use sustainable.”
POCA also acknowledges criticism of the ability to verify whether sustainable palm oil as certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is truly sustainable. The group organised an event recently so that consumers can communicate directly with the RSPO. Over 1400 comments were received from participants worldwide.
The RSPO is one of the few organizations that may have the ability to use economic forces to stop a full scale assault on orangutans by uncontrolled palm oil development. There are serious flaws in the sustainability supply chain but if you consider the option of unregulated palm oil production the importance of an effective regulatory body is apparent.
POCA has sent the recommendations from their consumer survey to the RSPO to initiate dialogue as to how to improve this flawed system. Key among them was a recommendation to introduce a rating system whereby producers claiming to be produce certified sustainable palm oil must be 100% certified. All other members that are working on becoming certified should be bound by strict timelines to do so but they will not be able to claim that they are producing Certified Sustainable Palm Oil ( CSPO ). A system like this would add greater credibility to RSPO certificates where the biggest criticism has been that members continue to openly violate RSPO rules while claiming to be producing CSPO.
As they continue to push US brands to either use sustainable palm oil or an alternative that does not have such a crushing impact on the environment, POCA encourages all Americans to join them in saving the endangered orangutan and Sumatran tigers by joining them in their campaigns urging US brands to create strong policies on their use of palm oil.
- Greenpeace statement: RSPO revisions too little and too late (dominicantoday.com)
- Would YOU Kill An Orangutan? Say NO to Palm Oil. (intentious.com)
- Cargill Dead Set On Plantation Expansion; Orphaned Orangutan Calls on CEO Gregory Page in Wayzata, MN. (understory.ran.org)
- Conservationists urge RSPO member to cease rainforest destruction after starving orangutans rescued from concession (thenewstribe.com)
- Why ‘RSPO Sustainable Palm Oil’ is not responsible (understory.ran.org)
Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputy chairman Busyro Muqoddas said a study on corruption conducted by the commission found that illegal logging and mining practices in Indonesia had involved at least 12 ministries and/or non-ministry governmental institutions.
Busyro went on to say that forest crimes occurred because the government conspired with perpetrators in forest areas used for intransparent business.
“Perpetrators of forest crimes are often called ‘unidentified officials’, however they commit the crime collectively,” said Busyro in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
He made the statements in a discussion, on Monday, held by Change.org in cooperation with Public Virtue Institute, End of the Icons, and Humanitarian Forums Indonesia at Muhammadiyah Central Board office to commemorate Earth Day which fell on April 22.
A researcher from ICW’s law and monitoring division, Donald Fariz, said the forestry sector had been marred by corrupt practices that included chaotic permit issuance procedures.
“Many illegal logging activities are supported by security officers. I also think there was corruption in the revision process of Aceh’s spatial planning bylaw (RTRW),” he said.
During the discussion, all participants urged the government to extend a moratorium that banned the issuance of new permits in natural forests and peat lands, which will expire on May 20.
They also urged the government to halt the revision process of Aceh’s RTRW, which has the potential to reduce protected forests in Aceh, including a tropical forest acclaimed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a “World Heritage” site. (ebf)
Related news, in Bahasa Indonesia
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.
KBR68H, Jakarta – Greenpeace criticise the mining company East Asia Mining for being involved in the plan for reclassification of 1.2 million ha of protected forest in Aceh. Greenpeace South East Asia’s forest campaigner Yuyun Indradi said that his organisation will work together with environmental activists in Aceh to continue reject the forest reclassification plan.
“And East Asia Mining has also admitted that they are behind the spatial plan known to release 1.2 million ha of forest area for mining. This is an ecological suicide, since this area will be totally destroyed through mining,” explained Yuyun in Jakarta.
Yuyun Indradi added that the effort for reclassification will potentially trigger environmental disaster in Aceh. Besides, this kind of action by the Provincial Government of Aceh is a violation of law, particularly that the plan was announced in the middle of the implementation of forest moratorium.