In 2009, a pulpwood plantation (HTI) development company affiliated with Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), one of the world’s largest paper companies, is clearing natural peat swamp forest with likely High Conservation Values under legally questionable circumstances.
Eyes on the Forest (EoF) investigation from May to June 2009 has found that a pulpwood plantation development company affiliated with APRIL called PT Sumatera Riang Lestari is operating in the Kerumutan forest block in Riau Province, clearing natural forest and digging canals to drain the peat soil. This logging by the company marks a resumption of natural forest clearing in the Province, following the lifting of a de facto moratorium on natural forest clearing in 2007 and 2008, when Riau Police probed widespread illegal logging by the pulp and paper industry.
PT Sumatera Riang Lestari obtained a new HTI license (Minister of Forestry Decree Number 208/ Menhut-II/2007) for 48,635 hectares of the Kerumutan peat swamp forest in 2007. The company only began clearing it in February 2009, EoF was unable to determine the size of forest cleared by APRIL since then.
The natural forest clearance operations by APRIL’s associated company are legally questionable, based upon existing laws and regulations. According to the national land use plan by the Ministry of Public Works in 2008, the concession of PT Sumatera Riang Lestari is located in area that has criteria of Protection Forest (Hutan Lindung) – this means that the permit granted for this concession should be reviewed thoroughly and the company should not continue operation prior to detailed identification on protection areas of peatland based upon spatial plan criteria at district level is conducted.
This forest area has peat over 3 meters deep; Presidential Decree Number 32/1990 says that natural forest located on peatlands with a depth of 3 meters or more situated in an upstream swamp area shall be protected. The natural forest clearance operations by APRIL’s associated company violates APRIL’s own public commitment to set aside HCVF areas for protection and management, since the Kerumutan peatland forest landscape is an endangered ecosystem (HCV 3) and considered by tiger conservation experts (Sanderson, et.al, 2006) as even more important for the critically endangered Sumatra tiger (HCV 1.2) than Riau’s Tesso Nilo landscape as habitat.
EoF investigation found tracks of a Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) in a community close to the concession of PT Sumatera Riang Lestari. Large-scale natural forest conversion by APRIL’s affiliate company is likely to create conflict between the endangered species that are evicted from their habitat and local people.