Community fear to be homeless by pulpwood expansion

EoF News / 21 January 2010

PEKANBARU (EoF News)— Residents of a village in Kerumutan block forest met parliamentarians from Riau Province Legislative Council’s (DPRD) Commission A on Tuesday here to file complaints over land dispute against PT Sumatera Riang Lestari, an industrial timber plantation company associated to Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL).

Representatives of Tempuling village community of Indragiri Hilir district, Riau province, told the Commission A chaired by Bagus Santoso, that they protested their settlement was claimed as part of PT Sumatera Riang Lestari (SRL) pulpwood plantation concession.

“We have seen the map of PT SRL pulpwood plantation. If that map really represents the pulpwood plantation granted by the government, then we will likely turn out to be refugees and homeless due to our settlement and plantation claimed by that company,” said Khairul Azmi, a spokesperson for the residents, as quoted by Tribun Pekanbaru daily (20/1/2010) as saying.

Riau Mandiri daily reported that the community also told the parliamentarians that villager head of Harapan Jaya was detained by police following the tense conflict between the residents and PT SRL.

Eyes on the Forest have reported Investigative Report on natural forest clearing by PT Sumatera Riang Lestari in August last year saying that PT SRL’s logging operations are legally highly questionable, creating social conflicts, destroying potential HCVFs and causing significant CO2 emissions. 

The investigation found that PT Sumatera Riang Lestari, in the Kerumutan forest block, was clearing natural forest, digging canals and building worker camps under legally questionable circumstances. 

The carbon stored in Kerumutan’s forest and deep peat soils is also under threat by PT Sumatera Riang Lestari’s operations with potential devastating effects on the global climate. 

EoF report also highlighted that the natural forest clearing incited severe social conflict between villagers of Desa Harapan Jaya that sits inside the concession and PT Sumatera Riang Lestari.

Tempuling community criticized the Minister of Forestry Malam Sambat Kaban [at that time] who merely signed the concession permit in April 2009 without field verification and socialization to the villagers, Tribun Pekanbaru daily reported. The residents have been dwelling for dozens years there and now their settlement is claimed as part of PT SRL’s pulpwood concession. 

They also worried that human-wildlife conflict would escalate following the natural forest clearing by that company as Sumatran tiger (panthera tigris sumatrae) sighted by the villagers.

Speaker of DPRD Riau’s Commission A, Bagus Santoso pledged to question some district heads, relevant officials at district level, the government of Riau Province to respond the community’s complaint over their settlement claimed by APRIL’s PT SRL, as well as conflict involving PT SRL in some areas, Riau Mandiri daily reported (20/1/2010).

Commission A have visited some districts where PT SRL also operated to convert natural forest to pulpwood plantations. “Concessions of PT SRL in some areas in Riau have caused people restless. We will not let community victimized and this [problem] should be addressed,” said Bagus Santoso.

Walhi Riau last month released investigative report on PT SRL’s natural forest clearing in Pulau Rangsang, Kerumutan forest block, which threatened the strategic outer island to sink. ”Natural forest clearing in the peatlands by PT SRL is not only threatening peat swamp forest of Pulau Rangsang,  but also menace the Indonesia’s outer island which is very strategic in terms of the Republic of Indonesia’s national defense and security. Surely, it will be a serious problem and we cannot ignore it at all,” Hariansyah Usman, Walhi Riau director executive

PT SRL’s  permit in Pulau Rangsang for the 18,890-ha concession is part of  total concession size of 215,305 hectares, which previously indicated deriving from former selective logging concession (HPH) permit belongs to  PT National Timber. The logging license or Annual Working Plan (RKT) for PT SRL is granted directly from the Ministry of Forestry by ignoring the pro-active participation by the Province Forestry Service as it used to be.

Several protests had been staged by communities in Indragiri Hilir, Kepulauan Meranti and Rokan Hilir districts recently to reject the pulpwood expansion by PT SRL, an associated company to APRIL.

In another development, Riau NGOs filed their concerns about APRIL’s pulpwood expansion which incited severe conflicts against communities in several places throughout the province, Riau Mandiri reported recently. The NGOs met Senators of Regional Representative Council (DPD) early this week to share community concerns over conflict with APRIL’s PT SRL in Kerumutan and Kampar Peninsula forest landscape.

Susanto Kurniawan, coordinator of Jikalahari NGOs network, criticized that the Minister of Forestry was inconsistent to suspend APRIL’s operation in deep peat Kampar Peninsula forest as the matter of fact the logging operation still occur in PT RAPP’s concession, Riau Mandiri daily reported.

EoF Investigation on PT SRL