NGOs, community protest new logging approval issued by Minister

EoF News / 30 April 2009

PEKANBARU (EoF News)—New approval to natural forest clearing issued by the Minister of Forestry recently sparked criticism and protest by environmental as well as local community groups in Riau province, media reported Wednesday.

The Minister of Forestry Malem Sambat Kaban has recently issued 14 Annual Working Plans (RKT) to pulp and timber companies allowing the industry to clear more 147,000  hectares of natural forest in Riau, Antara news agency reported Wednesday (29/4/2009).

The issuance of RKT by the Ministry of Forestry which used to be issued by Provincial Forestry Service based upon new Regulation of Forestry Minister (Peraturan Menteri Kehutanan) number 14 year 2009 in March 2009.

Jikalahari, NGOs network for Riau forest rescue, protested the issuance of natural forest clearing approval, said its coordinator, Susanto Kurniawan, the news agency  reported.

“All 14 RKTs issued by the Minister of Forestry located in natural forest. And, it will not be over, as information said at least 20 RKTs would be released referring to Permenhut Number 14/2009,” Susanto said.

EoF learned that de facto logging moratorium in Riau province initiated by the police which started in January 2007 would resume soon following these decision which directly released by the Director General of Production Development.

In December last year the police halted probe to 13 of 14 companies allegedly involved in environmental and forest crime allegations due to no convincing evidence.

Antara reported that the RKT issuance now is not supported by recommendations from provincial Forestry Service as effort to meet target of pulpwood plantation program by 5 million ha by 2009.

“The policy by the central government does not pay attention to sustainable ecology and it will bring about loss to our next generation in the future,” said Abbas Djamil, Chairman of Riau Community Leaders Forum (FKPMR), Antara reported.

He said the logging approval would cause social conflict as communities surrounding the forests would lose their tenure land.

 “We deeply regret this policy due to it traverses forestry regulation previously issued,” said Susanto, mentioning pulpwood plantation land criteria on non-productive production forest and on grassland.   Walhi Riau’s Director Executive, Hariansyah Usman, said that the issuance of 14 RKT by the Minister was compelling and could bring about legal consequence in the future, the news agency reported.

"It seems this is a part of scenario of SP3 [letter to close cases] on illegal logging which involved forestry companies in Riau in 2008,” he said adding that provincial forestry service knowing much of latest condition of deforestation in Riau.

The companies obtained RKTs are APP and APRIL associated companies such as Bina Duta Laksana (5,569 Ha), PT Rimba Mandau Lestari (4,069 Ha), PT Riau Indo Agropalma (7,814 Ha), PT Satria Perkasa Agung (2,680 Ha), PT Selaras Abadi Utama (4,812 Ha), PT Bina Daya Bintara (9,194 Ha), PT Lestari Unggul Makmur (2,899 Ha), PT Suntara Gajapati, PT Citra Sumber Sejahtera, PT Mitra Kembang Selaras, PT Arara Abadi, PT Perawang Sukses Perkasa Industri, PT Satria Perkasa Agung Serapung, PT Balai Kayang Mandiri, and PT Artelindo Wiratama.