Major palm oil producers accused of destroying Indonesia’s forests and driving its iconic wildlife to the verge of extinction are now taking their practices to the relatively pristine forests of the Congo Basin, an environmental group has warned.
In its report “Seeds of Destruction” released this month, the Rainforest Foundation UK said there was “a real and growing risk that some of the serious, negative environmental and social impacts resulting from the rapid expansion of palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia, such as widespread deforestation, social conflict and dispossession, could be repeated in the Congo Basin.”
“This report shows that some of the same major players behind oil palm production in Southeast Asia [such as Sime Darby, Goodhope, Wilmar and FELDA] are now turning their attention to Africa,” RFUK said.
The report said the companies were turning to the Congo Basin region, which includes Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, among others, because of lower land and labor costs and preferential access to the European Union market.
It warned that unless the African governments were fully aware of how these companies were operating in Indonesia and Malaysia, they could suffer from the same problems seen in Indonesia.
“Of the companies which have been identified as being behind specific developments, or are otherwise known to be seeking oil palm land in the Congo Basin, three — Cargill, Sime Darby and Wilmar — have been found in the past to be involved in illegal and destructive oil palm development in Indonesia,” the report said, citing independent claims made by the environmental groups Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace and AidEnvironment.
It added that the negative environmental and social impacts “typical of [palm oil] developments in Indonesia have already been well-documented at … Sime Darby’s concession in Liberia.”
RFUK listed the negative impacts as deforestation and loss of biodiversity, increased carbon emissions from the clearing of primary and peat forests, conflicts with indigenous residents over land rights, pollution of local water resources and poor working conditions for local laborers.
To avoid these problems, it recommended greater transparency in the palm oil contracts, ensuring respect for local communities and empowerment of smallholder farmers, among other measures.
The increased expansion into Africa by Southeast Asian palm oil firms grabbed headlines last month when farmers in Liberia denounced the “modern slavery” visited upon them by an Indonesian company, Golden Veroleum Liberia.
“The Indonesians came here for the first time in September 2010,” resident Benedict Manewah told AFP.
“They said, ‘We have a concession agreement, your president has sold it to us.’ Three months later they came back … and they started to destroy the properties, farmlands, crops, livestock and houses.”
Sime Darby, from Malaysia, was the subject of similar complaints in Liberia.
- Indonesia’s palm oil blues spreading to Africa, report says (eco-business.com)
- Capitalists amping up destruction of Congo rainforests for palm oil plantations (dgrnewsservice.org)
- The REDD contradiction: Deforestation and oil palm plantations in the Congo Basin (climate-connections.org)
- Felda Urges Tax-Free Palm Oil to Combat Reserves: Southeast Asia (bloomberg.com)
- Video: Environmental crime: In pursuit of the palm oil industry in Liberia (climate-connections.org)
- Starbucks Will Source Only Sustainable Palm Oil By 2015 (triplepundit.com)
- The Perils of Palm Oil (familysurvivalprotocol.com)
- Palm oil casualty? 14 pygmy elephants fall prey to pesticides in Borneo (csmonitor.com)
JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Supreme Court ordered a major palm oil company to pay more than $390 million to the state for tax evasion, a judge said on Friday, in a case likely to set a precedent in the graft-ridden nation.
The court found Asian Agri and more than a dozen of its subsidiaries guilty of “deliberately not filling tax forms properly between 2002 and 2005”, marking the country’s first prosecution in a major corporate tax case.
Head judge Djoko Sarwoko told AFP said the company was ordered to pay back state losses of 1.26 trillion rupiah ($130.5 million) and was fined an additional 2.52 trillion rupiah to be paid within a year.
The case is seen as breakthrough in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, where sweeping tax reforms introduced in recent years have been met with hostile resistance from big business.
Sarwoko said that the ruling – made on December 18 but only publicised this week – would set a precedent for at least nine major tax crime cases in the pipeline.
Asian Agri is one of Asia’s biggest palm oil producers, exporting three million tonnes of palm oil in 2011 with more than 160,000 hectares of plantations on the island of Sumatra, according to its website.
It is a subsidiary of Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), a Singapore-based conglomerate of palm oil, pulp and oil and gas firms owned by Sukanto Tanoto, Indonesia’s seventh-richest tycoon, according to Forbes.
Environmental groups have also long accused RGE’s pulp and paper company Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL) of logging on protected carbon-rich peatland in Sumatra.
The Asian Agri case began in 2006 when a former financial controller at the company accused of embezzling money from the firm reported that the company had evaded tax.
The case was thrown back and forth between the Tax Office and the Attorney-General’s Office, raising criticisms that government institutions and law enforcers were reluctant to address major tax crimes.
“Big multi-national companies are not unattached to political and business operations. That’s why tax cases have proceeded at a snail’s pace,” Firdaus Ilyas from Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) said.
Ilyas said that ICW research showed resource-based companies were the most likely to evade tax in Indonesia.
A report released this month by Washington-based Global Financial Integrity ranked Indonesia ninth for illicit financial outflows among the world’s developing nations, losing $109 billion in crime, tax evasion and corruption between 2001 and 2010.
Transparency International ranks Indonesia 118 in its transparency index, one of the lowest of 174 countries, assessed on par with Madagascar and Egypt.
- Indonesian court fines palm oil giant for tax evasion (rappler.com)
- Fears over Indonesia’s thirst for palm oil (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Indonesia’s race to turn palm oil into cash has taken it’s toll on Human and Wildlife alike. (familysurvivalprotocol.com)
- How the “Nutella tax” and the China slowdown may force Malaysia and Indonesia to wean off palm oil (qz.com)
- Environmental hangover from Indonesia’s palm oil thirst (seeddaily.com)
- France considers big tax hike on key ingredient in Nutella (pri.org)
PRESS RELEASE: Walhi makes historic legal intervention as rogue palm oil company tries to sue Governor of Aceh over cancellation of controversial palm oil permit in Tripa Peat Swamp Forest
14/12/2012 – FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
Walhi makes historic legal intervention as rogue palm oil company tries to sue Governor of Aceh over cancellation of controversial palm oil permit in Tripa Peat Swamp Forest
[Banda Aceh] In an unprecedented legal move, on Thursday 13th December in the Administration court of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Walhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) motioned to join the Governor of Aceh Province as a co-defendent in a lawsuit brought against him by palm oil company PT. Kallista Alam, whose controversial palm oil concession in the Tripa peat swamp forests of Aceh he recently cancelled after law courts found clear legal infractions in the issuance of its plantation permit.
“WALHI’s move to intervene like this is the first ever of its kind in Indonesia, and serves to emphasise just how serious we are in our support for the Governor’s strong stance in upholding the law against illegal permits in the province”, stated Walhi Aceh Executive Director, TM Zulfiker. “In regard to the intervention”, he continued, “WALHI indeed have a serious interest in this case and wish to be represented in court. We must ensure the Administrational Court in Banda Aceh fully understands the legal processes that have led to this new case being filed, in particular the course of events that followed after Walhi won the appeal in its case against the company at the Administration Court in Medan, which led directly to the Governor taking action and revoking the company’s permit”.
Luhut MP Pangaribuan, head of the legal team representing PT Kallista Alam, objected to the motion, stating that WALHI Aceh have no interest in the case but Zuhri, the lawyer working for WALHI Aceh, immediately refuted this, stating that “The motion to join the case is based on the legal precedent and actions of the case filed by WALHI against the previous Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, and the company PT Kalista Alam, for legal irregularities in the now revoked permit. The permit was revoked by Aceh’s current Governor, Zaini Abdullah, after a court order requesting him to do so was issued by the Administration Court in Medan. This is precisely why we wish to stand by that decision and support the Governor for taking the correct legal course of action in revoking the permit”.
Today there are several ongoing legal cases related to the company PT Kallista Alam, as explained by Kamaruddin, a lawyer representing Tripa Community. “Firstly, there was the original case filed by WALHI Aceh against the company and former Governor for the issuance of the illegal permit. In this case, the judges in the administrational court of Medan agreed with WALHI Aceh, that there were indeed a number of legal infractions in the issuance of the permit. It was this decision that resulted in the current Governor cancelling the permit. Now the company is attempting to appeal this earlier decision with the Supreme Court in Jakarta”.
“Secondly, and in a separate case, PT Kallista Alam is attempting to sue the new Governor over the permit’s cancellation in the administrational court of Banda Aceh, even though it was revoked in full compliance with the law, as clearly demonstrated by the judges decision in the case described above. It is this new lawsuit in which WALHI is seeking to intervene and join, as a co-defendant standing alongside Governor Zaini Abdullah.”
“Thirdly, also in a seperate case, the Ministry of Environment and the Attourney Generals Office are taking legal action against the PT Kallista Alam for legal infringements in the field, at the district court of Meulaboh, in West Aceh.”. Kamaruddin went on to explain, “the main problem for all of us is that whilst these lengthy court battles are ongoing, the destruction of the unique Tripa peat swamp forests by Kallista Alam and other companies is continuing unchecked. All of the companies in Tripa are still actively commiting crimes in the field, and PT Kallista seems to be deliberately trying to prolong proceedings and slow down the cases against them”.
As the court was settling for Tuesday’s hearing in Banda Aceh, an angry protest was heard outside the courtroom, “PT Kallista Alam has destroyed Tripa and is selling out our country”, Fery, a protester from the coalition of students and community for Tripa, shouted through a megaphone to a mob of over 50 university students who had gathered, chanting, singing and carrying placards, to affirm their support for Aceh’s Governor and his stance against law breakers.
“It’s blatantly obvious there have been numerous crimes committed in Tripa relating to spatial planning law, environmental law, and forestry plantation law. There have also been clear breaches of the Indonesian Government’s moratorium on new plantations in primary forests and peatlands, which resulted from the billion dollar agreement between Indonesia and Norway”, stated Deddy Ratih, Spatial Planning Campaigner for WALHI Indonesia. “While WALHI is taking action in support of Aceh’s Governor, illegal actions in the field must also be halted by direct intervention of the police and both Provincial and National Government. Even today, despite all the legal wrangling in the courts, canals continue to drain the last of the life from Tripa’s protected peat swamps and PT Kallista Alam is simply playing games, as it tries to prolong and delay implementation of the law. The reality is that every day plantation activities in the field are slowing killing Tripa. All of the companies operating there must be reviewed and have their permits cancelled if they are not in full compliance with the letter of the law. Activities must be stopped and all drainage canals blocked immediately if this critically important and unique ecosystem is to have any chance of recovery”.
“No matter what the eventual outcomes of the various legal process taking place, it will all be meaningless unless strong and decisive action is taken right now on the ground, all the permits should be revoked immediately and work begin to restore the damaged areas”, he reiterated.
Public information on the appeal lodged by PT Kallista Alam with the Supreme Court is limited, and a decision on whether the appeal will be allowed to proceed or not is considered likely to take place ‘in camera’ (behind closed doors).
For further comment or information please contact:
Deddy Raith – email@example.com
Spatial Planning Campaigner, Walhi Indonesia (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)
Yuyun Indradi – firstname.lastname@example.org
Political Campaigner, Greenpeace Indonesia
- PT. Kallista Alam suing Aceh Government in regard to revoking permit (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Palm Oil company PT Kallista Alam fails to show in court case filed by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment over destruction of world renowned Sumatran Orangutan stronghold, the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest. (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- District court of Meulaboh delay Kallista hearing for the second time (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Tomorrow, The Civil Trial for Tripa Case Will Be Held In Meulaboh (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- State Attorney Lawyers File The Legal Case of Tripa Peat Swamp This Week (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
The roar of chainsaws has replaced birdsong, the once-lush, green jungle scorched to a barren grey. The equivalent of six football pitches of forest is lost every minute in Indonesia.
Tanjung Puting Nat Park – Orang Utan, Proboscis Monkey Camp Leakey –
The disappearance of the trees has pushed thousands of animals—from the birds they harbour and sustain to orangutans, gibbons and black panthers—out of their natural homes and habitats.
They have been replaced by plantations that are too nutrient-poor to support such wildlife, instead dedicated solely to producing fruit that is pulped to make oil used globally in products ranging from food to fuel.
A palm oil tree can yield useable fruit in three years and continue doing so for the next 25 years. But such wealth creation has meant environmental destruction. “We don’t see too many orangutans any more”, said a worker with a weather-beaten face, taking a break in the shade of a hut built on a path gouged out of the forest floor.
Experts believe there are about 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 80 percent of them in Indonesia’s Borneo and the rest in Malaysia. Exact data on their decline is hard to come by, say primatologists. “What we see now is a contest between orangutans and palm oil for a home,” said Sri Suci Utami Atmoko from National University in Jakarta. “You can judge that the population is depleting from the loss of orangutan habitats.” Gibbons, often recognisable by the rings of white fur that frame their faces, are among the hardest-hit species. “There are 100,000 gibbons in Borneo. But in 15-20 years, there will be more viable populations,” said Aurelien Brule, a French national based in Borneo for 15 years who runs an animal sanctuary. Gibbons rescued from the destruction of their forest homes cannot be returned alone into new wild habitats. “Other pairs protecting their own territory would kill them,” said Brule, adding that rampant deforestation has wiped out sites suitable for single animals. Enlarge A bulldozer that is used in clearing forest land for palm oil plantations in Borneo. The roar of chainsaws has replaced birdsong, the once-lush, green jungle scorched to a barren grey. The equivalent of six football pitches of forest is lost every minute in Indonesia. There is also a human cost, with the permits for plantations resulting in the eviction of indigenous people.
Abdon Nababan, the secretary general of AMAN, an Indonesian indigenous peoples alliance, said there is no exact data but recorded cases of land conflict are in the hundreds, with thousands of people possibly affected. “Palm oil has brought fortune to Indonesia, but it has been gained with blood,” said Jakarta-based forest campaigner for Greenpeace, Wirendro Sumargo. Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has exponentially increased the land dedicated to the commodity from 274,000 hectares (680,000 acres) in the 1980s to 7.32 million hectares in 2009, government documents show. The industry has helped push Indonesia’s GDP growth rate above 6.0 percent every year since 2005, but at the cost of huge tracts of rainforest. An area roughly the size of Denmark was lost between 2000 and 2010 across Indonesia and its neighbour Malaysia, according to a study published last year in the Global Change Biology journal. Despite some backlash around the world, including an unsuccessful attempt in France to push an amendment to quadruple tax on palm oil to discourage consumption—the destruction is unlikely to stop any time soon. Indonesia, which together with Malaysia holds 85 percent of the market, aims to increase production more than 60 percent by 2020. To appease environmental concerns, it last year imposed a moratorium on new permits in primary forests and peatlands. But critics say it is a cosmetic move, with plantations overlapping sensitive environments. One example can be found in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest, in the northwest of Aceh province, home to endangered species such as Sumatran rhinos and tigers. In this area, “we have evidence that five palm oil firms are doing illegal practices”, said Deddy Ratih, forest campaigner for WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia. Derom Bangun, the chairman of umbrella organisation the Indonesian Palm Oil Board, doesn’t deny the issue but says improvements are being made. “The government has seen (the violations) and has taken steps to fix it. Ultimately we want the palm oil industry to work according to the rules,” he added. In an effort to improve their image, some palm oil firms have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a forum consisted namely of green groups and growers. The WWF, one of the founders of RSPO, admitted that there is still a conservation shortfall. “Generally land allocation for plantations still overlaps with primary forests and peatlands, including in areas that are the habitat of key species,” said Irwan Gunawan, WWF deputy director of market transformation in Indonesia. “We are encouraging the government to pay attention to this,” he added.
Palm Oil company PT Kallista Alam fails to show in court case filed by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment over destruction of world renowned Sumatran Orangutan stronghold, the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest.
Press Release – 27/11/2012 – For International Distribution
Palm Oil company PT Kallista Alam fails to show in court case filed by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment over destruction of world renowned Sumatran Orangutan stronghold, the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest.
[Meulaboh] Today the Court of Meulaboh, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, held its first hearing of a civil case brought by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Attorney General’s Office vs the palm oil company, PT Kallista Alam, for crimes conducted in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest.
The Indonesian Ministry of the Environment was represented by prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Indonesia. PT Kallista Alam, on the other hand, did not appear, causing the trial to be postponed since the judges were unable to address both parties.
One of the prosecution team, Lawyer Ryan Palasi, expressed disappointment over the company’s absence, “it suggests the defendant is not taking the proceedings seriously and not committed to settling the case,” he said after the hearing.
Conservation Director for the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme said “We very much welcome this landmark action by the Ministry of Environment and will be monitoring the case closely, There continues to be a huge amount of international interest in the events in Tripa, building the momentum for multiple investigations and this case to proceed. Earlier this year, the Administrational Court of Medan found that at least one concession owned by PT Kallista Alam in Tripa was illegal, resulting in Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah immediately showing strong leadership towards conservation by revoking the highly controversial permit. Tripa is indeed a high profile case with considerable international interest in how the Indonesian Government’s current prosecutions progress” he added.
Chairman of Friends of the Earth Indonesia’s Aceh office (WALHI Aceh), TM Zulfikar, concurred, “Walhi Aceh applauds the determination shown by the Ministry of Environment in bringing this case to the law court in Meulaboh. We hope this case will help strengthen land use planning and illustrate consistency in natural resource management within the province. Improved governance and accountability of law breakers is urgently needed to ensure Aceh’s natural resources can be managed more sustainably in future for the numerous benefits they provide for Aceh’s people. We would advice business operating in Aceh to disengage with environmentally destructive activities, much of the destruction of the Tripa ecosystem has be done illegally, and now its time to redress the balance and bring those responsible to account.”
The Tripa Peat Swamp Forest comprises 61,000 hectares, within the larger 2.6 million hectare protected Leuser Ecosystem; one of South East Asia’s most important biodiversity hotspots and the only place on earth where the Sumatran Tiger, Rhino, Elephant and Orangutan can all be found living side by side.
The start of legal proceedings in this case coincides with a visit to Indonesia by the Crown Prince of Norway, Haakon Magnus, and his wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, who according to press reports are interested in discussing environmental issues with President SBY whilst they are here. The Scandinavian country pledged a $1 billion assistance package to help protect Indonesian forests in 2010, on the condition that there is a verifiable reduction in deforestation and deforestation in Indonesia. Before the current wave of destruction by oil palm companies began in Tripa, these swamps provided abundant fresh clean water for local communities, and even today is a carbon store of global importance in the battle against climate change. In fact, large tracts of Tripa are also off limits to new plantation developments under a moratorium on new plantations in primary forests and peat swamps established by President SBY as part of the Government’s commitment under its 1 billion dollar agreement with Norway.
“Satellite imagery and community reports identify at least three companies operating in Tripa that have clearly breached the moratorium and other government legislation. These include concessions claimed by PT Kallista Alam, PT Surya Panen Subur 2 and PT Dua Perkasa Lestari,” said Deddy Ratih, Spatial Planning Advocacy Manager for WAHLI Indonesia. “We would like to invite Crown Prince Magnus and Indonesian President SBY to visit Tripa so they can see first hand the continuing deforestation, including those areas clearly off limits under the agreement between the two countries, to alert them to the realities on the ground and the fact that forest clearance and drainage of the peatlands is still continuing despite the legal processes now ongoing. All the palm oil companies in Tripa need to be reviewed to ensure they abide by the permits, and if the permits do not follow the law, they should be immediately revoked, the law of Indonesia needs to be followed” he added.
These sentiments were echoed by a local community member who wished to remain anonymous, due to fears of retribution from the companies concerned. “We are happy to see the Government’s efforts to help us save and restore Tripa, but are also concerned as the destruction of Tripa is still continuing on the ground, even today. These companies keep setting new fires to clear the forest, new canals are still being dug to drain the swamps, and the area is still dying as a result. Even though this case has now been brought to court something urgently needs to be done to stop activities on the ground immediately, or we will still lose Tripa forever,” he continued.
“Perhaps the biggest crime”, concluded an impassioned Dr Singleton, “is that despite all the
investigations, the court proceedings, and some successes so far, we may well end up with justice in the courts, but still lose the unique Tripa peat swamp forest ecosystem and its globally important Sumatran Orangutan population. Time is running out, and stopping illegal activities in the field and closing the drainage canals in Tripa has to be the number one priority. For the companies representatives to not even appear before the court when summoned today shows an all time low to the respect to courts, law and Government of Indonesia by the palm oil companies who operate in Tripa, they really must just believe the rules do not apply”.
The next hearing in this high profile environmental case is scheduled to be held in the district court of Meulaboh, Aceh Province, on 12th December.
For further comment please contact:
Dr. Ian Singleton
Director of Conservation, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program
Spatial Planning Advocacy Manager, WALHI (Friends of the Earth) Indonesia
Political Campaigner, Greenpeace Indonesia
- Historic Cancellation of Oil Palm Permit Opens Door for Prosecution of Companies Crimes (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Tomorrow, The Civil Trial for Tripa Case Will Be Held In Meulaboh (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Aceh Pulls Plug on Kallista Plantation (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Aceh Revokes Permit for Controversial Oil Palm Plantation (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Indonesian palm oil company loses permit on illegal logging (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Indonesia’s Aceh revokes palm permit after legal challenge (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
By Thin Lei Win Trust.org
BANGKOK (AlertNet Climate) – Indonesia’s dwindling forests and an ambitious plan by the country’s president to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the world’s third largest emitter are under threat due to the struggle between national and local governments for authority over precious forest land, environmental activists told AlertNet.
In February, Indonesia’s Constitution Court struck down a controversial clause of the Forestry Law, saying it was unconstitutional for the central government to designate forest zones without proper mapping, after six plaintiffs, including five district heads (known as “bupatis”) from Central Kalimantan, a province in the Indonesian portion of Borneo, asked for a review of the law.
This has left everyone wondering what would happen to millions of hectares of land that have been designated as forest zone but have not been mapped. Currently, only 14.2 million of some 130 million hectares are adequately mapped.
Among the questions being asked are: Are these areas now considered non-forest zones and will local governments be able to issue licenses at will to companies to turn them into mines and palm oil plantations?
Would that lead to further degradation of forests and increased social conflict in a sector not noted for its transparency as the government busies itself trying to map millions of hectares of land?
Is this another nail in the coffin for Indonesia’s tropical rainforests, the world’s third-largest, which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has vowed to save in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which drive climate change?
“There are concerns that (the decision) inherently weakens controls on deforestation across the country by further liberalising permit allocation in the provinces and districts,” said Jago Wadley, a senior forest campaigner for the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Indonesia’s forestry and plantations sectors “are riddled with systemic corruption at all levels” and law enforcement is also weak, he said. That presents fundamental barriers to the goals of reducing deforestation and associated emissions, he said.
A number of the provinces are planning to or have already made requests to the Ministry of Forestry to re-adjust their forest lands although it’s unclear how this would affect forest cover, said Philip Wells, director at Indonesia-based Daemeter Consulting and co-author of a policy brief on the court decision.
GOVERNANCE AND DEFORESTATION
The bupatis had argued that large portions of their administrative districts, in which hundreds of thousands of people lived, had been designated as forest lands, leaving them dependent upon the Ministry of Forestry for permission to develop their districts, including giving out lucrative licenses for palm oil plantations or mining.
Prior to the court decision, they could go to jail for licensing plantations in what the national government considers a forest zone. Environmentalists say many bupatis, who became powerful after Indonesia’s decentralisation, allow widespread illegal deforestation in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
According to a report by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), “At the local level, district timber permits became an important form of patronage for bupatis, who often used them to secure political loyalties among key constituencies and to finance election campaigns and other initiatives.”
Abu Meridian, from the Indonesian environmental organisation Telapak, confirmed the problem.
“The regulation comes from the central government but the decision to give the permit is done in provincial or district levels. Even though the government asks a certain areas not to be released for palm oil, the bupatis still do it,” he said.
“The statement from the President (about cutting emissions) is good but the problem is the reality in the field,” where communities are rarely consulted about projects that would significantly affect the forests and lands they depend on for their livelihoods, he said.
The government says deforestation on a national basis has fallen to around 500,000 hectares annually, and in May 2011, Yudhoyono announced a two-year moratorium on forest concessions. Environmental activists, however, believe the annual deforestation figure is higher than reported.
ENORMOUS TASK AHEAD
Indonesia’s government has tried to address the concerns over the court’s decision but there is much disquiet over an amendment issued in July that offers companies working without permits on land still classified as forests the chance to apply for permits retroactively.
“(The amendment) is an exercise in legalising crime in the oil palm plantations and mining sectors in exchange for maintaining a veneer of central government control over land allocation,” said EIA’s Wadley.
“The government has traded the rule of law for political expediency, likely at the expense of forests, local communities and indigenous peoples,” setting a dangerous precedent, he added.
The government has announced it intends to finish mapping forest areas by the end of 2014.
Although it says 80 percent of the job has already been done, “it is still an enormous task,” Daemeter’s Wells said. “The number of kilometres that have to be mapped is still huge.”
“If you try and do it too fast, mistakes could be made and indigenous land rights not recognised, leading to problems later down the line,” he warned.
CHANCE TO DO THINGS RIGHT?
Still, Wells believes the court decision provides an opportunity to do things right.
“The provinces, the central government and the Ministry of Forestry – they all potentially have quite a lot to lose,” especially if they get entangled in more court cases, he said. “The best solution for all parties is… to reach a compromise.”
In what he calls the “best-case” scenario, the Constitutional Court’s decision would “create a new opportunity for a rational, consensus-based approach to spatial planning that maximises positive outcomes for forests, peatlands, economic development, and community rights,” said the consultancy.
The “worst-case” scenario would be a protracted disagreement between the Ministry and regional authorities over land allocation, leading to continued delays in setting borders and creating sensible land use plans and leading to worsening deforestation and climate-changing emissions.
“In my opinion, the real key to success would be for the spatial plans to be reviewed in light of targets for low carbon emissions. But that really isn’t going to work unless the provinces and the Ministry could work together,” said Wells.
Activists and researcher warn that time for getting forest mapping right may be running out.
Yudhoyono, who has said he wants to leave a green legacy of his time in power, leaves office in 2014, and many of the new presidential hopefuls are not known for their interest in environmental protection.
- Indonesia’s forests under renewed threat – experts (trust.org)
- Organised crime behind up to 90 percent of tropical deforestation – report (trust.org)
- Emission reduction policies must be based on accurate carbon measurements (rtcc.org)
- Five facts you may have forgotten about forests (rtcc.org)
Presented by Volcomunity + V.Co-Logical in partnership with Sumatran Orangutan Society Filmed and Edited by Mark Samuels
Costa Mesa, CA. – November 7th, 2012 –Volcom announced today, the public premiere of the 15-minute, eco-themed documentary. It will be shown on Volcom Facebook on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 10 AM PST and held onVolcom YouTube’s page for viewing after initial public Facebook debut.
The Last Orangutans documentary is presented by Volcomunity + Volcom V.Co-Logical in partnership with Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS), and was filmed, edited and directed by Mark Samuels. This film stemmed from a product collaboration with Volcom V.Co-Logical Series and SOS for the Fall 2012 year, where 5% of sales from select Volcom products (by way of its 1% for the Planet membership) we’re given directly to the UK based SOS organization in efforts to support their conservation and educational work revolving around the critically endangered Sumatran Orangutan. This film was seen at select global film festivals during the 2012 summer film festival circuit where it gained nominations in best short film documentary and best director amongst other accolades.
In December of 2011 a small group traveled to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, to experience firsthand, the plight of the near extinct orangutans in one of their last strongholds.
“Amazingly, we found that a majority of Indonesians were uninformed about the severity of the problems and others, including government officials, lack any true resolve to confront the issues facing the orangutans and the forest itself,” said Mark Samuels, the film’s director.
The documentary compels the viewer to examine the causes of the rainforest destruction occurring in Indonesia and the effects an average citizen has on the destruction and the impending extinction facing the orangutans. Through interviews with government officials, villagers, and NGOs as well as breathtaking footage from Leuser National Park and the animals themselves, the film offers a compelling look into the problems and solutions that will decide the fate of the last orangutans.
For more information and the film’s trailer please view:http://www.volcomunity.com/2012/05/the-last-orangutang/
Behind the scenes of ‘The Last Orangutans’ filming Part Ihttp://www.volcomunity.com/2012/01/sumatra-orangutans-part-i/
Behind the scenes of ‘The Last Orangutans’ filming Part IIhttp://www.volcomunity.com/2012/01/sumatra-orangutans-part-ii/
About Volcom, Inc.
Volcom is a modern global lifestyle brand that embodies the creative spirit of youth culture. The company was founded on the principles of liberation, innovation and experimentation, and this is uniquely expressed in premium quality clothing, accessories, sunglasses, goggles and related products under the Volcom and Electric brand names. For more information, please visitwww.volcom.com . Volcom is a wholly owned subsidiary of PPR S.A., www.ppr.com.
About Sumatran Orangutan Society
The Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) is dedicated to protecting orangutans, their forests and their future. This is done through:
- Raising awareness about the importance of protecting orangutans and their habitat.
- Supporting grassroots projects that empower local people to become guardians of the rainforests, and restoring damaged orangutan habitat through tree planting programs.
- Campaigning on issues threatening the survival of orangutans in the wild.
For more information please visitwww.orangutans-sos.org
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