Rampant encroachment hits Tesso Nilo, elephants agonized

EoF News / 14 August 2006

Tesso Nilo, a proposed sanctuary for endangered Sumatran elephants, is under threat, as series of observation conducted by Forest Crime Unit of WWF-Indonesia Riau office has concluded recently.

Today, the observation proved true in the field as human-elephant conflict flares where the endangered evicted from their habitat due to forest fires and inhabit villagers’ plantation sites.

Reports said last weekend that villagers of four villages surrounding Tesso Nilo forest complained to local legislators accusing elephants damaged their 140-hectare palm oil plantationin Langgam sub-district of Pelalawan district.

Nurchalish Fadli, Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation coordinator of WWF-Indonesia of Riau Office, said around 30 elephants were evicted from their habitat in Tesso Nilo as rampant encroachment ignited fores fires. (Kompas, Aug.11; Riauterkini.com, 12 Aug).

He said it is impossible the elephants –which inhabit Tesso Nilo earlierly than plantation--could damage such a huge area. On the other hand, Fadli warned that the protest launched by villagers could be a hint for elephant killings for poaching ivory (Riauterkini.com, Aug.12). The authority is demanded to tackle the problem by returning the elephants to their habitat.

Tesso Nilo, which determined by the government as national forest park following the expiring concession previously held by Dwi Marta company, suffered encroachment and illegal occupation for developing oil palm plantation, Forest Crime Unit of WWF Indonesia-Riau observed recently.

WWF identifies that 15 groups of community allegedly encroached in Tesso Nilo by 2005 have increased by 17 groups in the following year. It is unidentified whether the community groups are hired by certain companies or perpetrated it as individuals.

Three timber concession holders (HPH) in Tesso Nilo forest, PT. Siak Raya Timber (38,560 ha), PT. Nanjak Makmur (48,370 ha) and PT. Hutani Sola Lestari (45,990 ha), suspended operation in the field. This condition incites rampant encroachment and illegal settlement where Landsat image on June 2004 identified that 2,623 ha areas out of total 132,920 ha is encroached by farmers. Widespread issuance of counterfeited land certification by village officials ignites rampant encroachment and illegal logging.

Encroachment escalates

Based on Landsat image monitored on August 2005, the encroachment rose drastically by 18,162 ha. Number of illegal occupiers mounts to 2,345 families in 2005, rose from 1,022 families in previous year. (See Fact sheet)

Nursamsu, WWF’s Forest Crime Unit Leader, said the escalating encroachment that rose significantly within last two years “is deeply concerned” (Riau Pos, Jul.26), as the area encroached soared by over 700%.

HPH (selective logging concession) holders in Tesso Nilo milieu, as well as PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) development corridor, should be responsible for widespread natural forest illegal logging and encroachment perpetrated by communities.

Moreover, road access or infrastructure project built such as PT. RAPP’s corridor in Baserah sector and Ukui sector, also encourages community’s enthusiasm to possess land nearby the road. Baserah sector corridor was built in 2001, which previously a logging access of PT Nanjak Makmur. While Ukui sector is developed in early 2004 inside of ex-concessions of PT. Siak Raya Timber and PT. Nanjak Makmur (see Map on Fact sheet).

WWF’s Forest Crime Unit concluded that HPH holders in Tesso Nilo, PT. Siak Raya Timber, PT. Nanjak Makmur and PT. Hutani Sola Lestari should be responsible to protect their concession respectively. Besides, RAPP is demanded to shut down illegal logging access due to it helps encroachers and illegal loggers entered the forest.

As consensus has been made by Tesso Nilo stakeholders –including Riau BKSDA agency, Riau Forestry Service, Distric Forestry Service of Pelalawan, Kuantan Singingi, Indragiri Hulu and Kampar, concession holders, Jikalahari and Walhi Riau NGOs— the authority should protect Tesso Nilo from any forest crime practices, including ban on illegal issuance of Land Certification by heads of villages that used by encroachers.

Walhi Riau has sued a legal standing against HPH holder of PT. Nanjak Makmur when the environmental NGO demanded the timber company to be responsible for securing its concession from any illegal logging activity and encroachment.

Meanwhile, Institute for Environmental Advocacy (LALH), Legal Aid Office (KBH) and supported by Tesso Nilo Community Forum have been taking a legal action against actors Tesso Nilo encroachment of Sungai Toro’s case. The police have been probing the case of the Toro encroachment since July 18, 2006.

Case of encroachment inside the state forest in Padang Sidempuan of North Sumatra involving timber baron Darianus Lungguk Sitorus in Central Jakarta district court could be an example that every citizen in this country should be equal before the law. Sitorus, who known for his long-standing invulnerability, is sentenced to eight year imprisonment. link: Fact sheet of Tesso Nilo encroachment