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.
The Globe Journal,Firman Hidayat
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The countdown on the status of the large scale oil palm companies operating on this highly carbon absorbing swamp has started. At last, the Government of Aceh is involved through the establishment of an internal investigation team. In one step, Tripa Peat Swamp will either be restored or destroyed. The commitment of the Governor of Aceh will decide.
“The Governor of Aceh has the authority to withdraw all permits in Tripa Peat Swamp if those companies are still clearing by burning,” said the Head of the Legal Office of the Province Secretariat of Aceh, Makmur Ibrahim SH M Hum.
Interviewed by The Globe Journal after attending an internal meeting related to Tripa Peat Swamp on Tuesday afternoon (31/7), Makmur said that the meeting decide to send a joint team on Thursday (2/8) consisting of different offices such as Bapedal, BP2T, Government Offices of Aceh, the Police, Provincial Office of Forestry and Plantation,” he said.
“If companies in Tripa Peat Swamp are violating their permits, if there is any clauses within the permits, e.g. Operation and implementation not in accordance to the permits, both technically and administratively alligned with the existing regulation, as well as the Regulation of the Ministry of Agriculture No. 62/2007 containing statement forbidding clearing by burning, Which is also written in the Environmental Law,” added Makmur.
The clause stated that if companies conduct land clearing by burning, this is clearly violating the regulation and the permit could get revoked.
Further, all companies in Tripa Peat Swamp are obliged to frequently submit physical report. “Concerning the report, there is none up to now,” said Makmur convincing.
According to Makmur, the leter from UKP4 and from WALHI Aceh about the withdrawal of the permits of two companies in Tripa Peat Swamp can only be used as additional references. “If there is no violation, the letter is not strong enough, except it is decided through a legal process,” he said.
Currently, the Government of Aceh only focuses on the withdrawal of the permits of PT. Kalista Alam. “We will finalise one by one. PT. SPS-2 is also in our investigation list. This means, the team will submit their recommendation regarding the withdrawal of companies’ permits in Tripa Peat Swamp,” he said.
According to a liable source to The Globe Journal after the meeting, the Governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, stated that the permits of two companies are to be withdrawn, since they have violated the law through clearing by burning. I addition, those companies in Tripa Peat Swamp have never submitted their report, which is frequently due every six months.
Related to the burning, whether it is deliberately or accidentally, it is clear that the companies are obliged to control the fire, but the companies seem to be incapable to control the wide spreading fire. “So the permits of those companies in Tripa Peat Swamp will be withdrawn,” said the source to The Globe Journal, who also attended the meeting,
Tuesday 31 July 2012 Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
By Holly Carroll
Growing up in Alaska, I still find it hard not to see palm trees as beautiful tropical scenery, a sure sign of a nice warm paradise. And palm trees, like anything ARE great in moderation. But in Indonesia and noticeably in Sumatra, they are a species of massive, large-scale monoculture! I.e. this plant seems to have replaced all but the most remote sections of wild forest! It has become such a cash crop that it’s planted EVERYWHERE. It was rare in all our endless hours of driving around this huge island that we ever saw real patches of endemic forest. Most of it has been replaced by oil palms- as far as the eye can see!
I’m all for the growing of a sustainable crop to improve the local economy but with palm oil, it’s NOT being DONE sustainably. Most of the time, the huge plantations are owned by foreign companies, locals are kicked off their land, and workers from outside of the region are brought in for the labor. So those kinds of operations DO NOT help the locals. The other thing that makes it unsustainable is that oil palms destroy the land for the future. After the tree has produced about 23 years of crops, it doesn’t produce any more and the land is no good for other crops. To add insult to injury, they COULD plant these trees in areas already disturbed or logged for other crops or developments, but they usually fell pristine forest so they get the bonus of selling all the logs first!
Even if you’re ready to take action to help prevent destruction of the forests of the orangutans and to limit massive monocultures of palm trees it’s hard to know what to do! Step one is to stop buying things that contain unsustainable palm oil (it’s in MANY food and toiletry products so if enough of us demand things without it, manufacturers will use other more sustainable oils). Step two is to support and demand properly legislated labeling of palm oil in our products and the creation of sustainable palm oil logo (visit here for more info).
But here in Sumatra, a section of the Aceh government called BPKEL is going one step further! When illegal palm trees are planted in the Leuser ecosystem, they go in and cut those trees down!! We met up with Mike Griffiths who has been leading this program for decades and the local man in line to take over his life’s work, Tezar Wong, who runs the section for the region. They work with the law on their side, and ensure the illegal trees are cut down! It was pretty awesome to see them knocking these trees over, not to mention a tree falling straight toward the camera looks SO cool in 3D. But just watching wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to take one down. I was too intimidated by the size of the chainsaw to even touch it, but was happy just to pound the wedge into the cut to make the final death-blow to an illegal tree. It was harder than it looked as they used a wooden wedge and small log to hammer it in. (As I was pounding and pounding, new blisters forming on my hands, I was thinking “you guys have heard of a sledgehammer, right?”) But it was a lot of fun and when the palm tree fell I was elated! I don’t usually enjoy killing things, but in this case I felt like I was making a dent in corporate profits, so it was a pleasure! I think they’ll have to bleep out the string of profanities I shouted at the illegal pest as it fell…
The daunting thing is, there’s 16,000 of these illegal trees just in this area, so Tezar and his crew have a lifetime of work cut out for them (pun intended).
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’.
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
- Cargill Admits Buying Palm Oil from Illegally Cleared Orangutan Habitat (understory.ran.org)
- Groups say palm oil production threatens rainforests, wildlife (wtvr.com)
- Profitable palm oil leaves environment poor (edition.cnn.com)
- Cargill needs to come clean … Ashley Schaeffer, Rainforest Action Network (point4counterpoint.wordpress.com)
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.