17 December 2015 / EoF Investigative Report
Eyes on the Forest (EoF) investigation has found that PT Sumatera Riang Lestari (SRL) in its Blok Rupat concession had destroyed habitat of protected Ramin species (Gonystylus sp) that internationally protected since 2003 by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Indonesian Government has banned all products derived from Ramin tree and its processed product, despite it is not used for paper productioni . The loss of Ramin habitat as the company just set aside small-diameter trees --as EoF investigation team found-- should need further action by the authority whether Ramin trees are clear-cut and the CITES Red List breached by PT Sumatera Riang Lestari, an affiliated company to Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL). In Sumatera, Ramin trees are found in eastern part of Riau Province stretching out to South Sumatra. Good price of Ramin and huge demand by international market for this product possibly drive massive clear-cutting in this peat forest. Rupat Island is one of islands in Riau Province which is located in Eastern plains of Sumatera. With its 15-square kilometer size, Pulau Rupat is considered as a small island that must be protected and requires sustainable development and environmental-friendly condition in order to provide prosperity to its 30,000 population. Devastating impact made by development should be avoided. It’s a highly strategic island that should be preserved as it’s bordered to neighboring Malaysia. The Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Economy visited Pulau Rupat and mentioned the island has potential to be an integrated tourism destination as long as its environment is well-preserved, media reported. Natural forest clearing by PT SRL in Rupat Island threatened mangrove and peat ecosystem which also incites carbon emission and global climate. Based on a study by Wetlands International & Canadian International Development Agency 2003, the entire concession of PT SRL in Blok Pulau Rupat has deep peat more than 2-4 meters. Rupat Island is an important place for migration raptors, particularly for birds of prey, and as the resting site and exit of the species migration from and to Indonesia through the Malayan Peninsula. Results of series of the study which are conducted by Raptor Indonesia (Rain) and the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) have shown there are several flights of large flock of Oriental honey buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus orientalis) during February until April yearly when they fly home in a wave of migration (spring migration). Raptor Indonesia in 2004 had confirmed that Rupat Island is important area called the "bottleneck site" migration of certain bird species (especially Pernis ptilorhynchus orientalis or Oriental honey buzzard) and must be protected and conserved for the continuation of migration of species in the area. PT SRL pulpwood plantation expansion obviously will also marginalize indigenous Suku Akit tribe who have been dwelling in Rupat island for centuries. Clear-cutting forest and draining peatlands will affect much to livelihoods of Akit Tribe community who rely upon natural resources such as forest and river. Devastating ecosystem in the island due to peat drainage and forest clearance is obviously a misery that should be swallowed by Akit Tribe community. In March 2010, at least 2000 families had signed a petition to the Government to protest the pulpwood plantation expansion of PT SRL, an affiliated company to APRIL, as they fear the operation would cause devastating impact to the small island and misery to people living there. EoF calls on PT SRL and APRIL to stop natural forest clearing and draining peat canals in Rupat Island as its license is legally questionable and possibly creates social conflict, jeopardizes community economy as well as poses threats to High Conservation Value Area and affects negatively global climate.