Riau organizations urge Govt to stop issuing permits

EoF News / 07 December 2009

PEKANBARU (EoF News)— Civil society and environmental organizations in Riau province urged the Minister of Forestry to permanently stop natural forest clearing in all forests in the province.

The decision to stop the deforestation for pulpwood and palm oil plantations in Riau can be initiated from Kampar Peninsula by halting all forestry licenses in the area, the group said as Riau Pos daily reported on Saturday (5/12/2009).

The civil society organizations had met the Riau senators (DPD) in Jakarta but they could not meet Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan on Friday (4/12/2009). Abbas Jamil from FKPMR (Forum of Riau Communities Leaders) and accompanied by some activists from Jikalahari, Walhi Riau, Yayasan Alam Sumatera, and others met an official of the Forestry Ministry.

Abbas Jamil said they urged the Ministry to revoke permits that issued to manage forest in rich peat Kampar Peninsula permanently and expected that a verification team set up by the ministry to tackle the controversy in the landscape would fulfill the justice for Riau people as well as would protect the ecology.

“We urge the Minister of Forestry for not issuing further conversion permits in natural forest including in peatland in Riau. The minister should also evaluate licensing that related to forest area as well as the MoF’s commitment to zero deforestation can start from Kampar Peninsula,” Abbas Jamil told the Ministry representative at the meeting.

The Ministry of Forestry had granted at least 30 RKTs (annual working plan), a recommendation letter granted to pulpwood companies to clear natural forest annually, this year to several companies associated to APP (Asia Pulp & Paper) and Asian Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL).

Zulkifli Yusuf, the Riau Forestry Service Head, told Kompas daily last week that he refused to sign the RKTs for companies due to there were still problems that the companies should tackle before granting the permits.

The Ministry issued 30 RKTs to timber companies to harvest 23 million cubic meter timber (fiber timber and logs) and had allowed 12 million cubic meter of logs taken from natural forest, Kompas.com website reported on Wednesday (2/12/2009). The 23 million m3 of the timber and logs exceeded the demand from two pulp giants, APP and APRIL in the province.

Before leaving his position, Minister of Forestry Malam Sambat Kaban in 2009 signed the RKTs that proposed by the companies. He first revised regulation stipulating  official who had authority to sign the annual cutting approval by allowing his ministry’s side to take over the mandate.

The ongoing forest clearing occur in concessions which located in Kampar Peninsula block, Kerumutan peat forest, Senepis peat forest and Bukit Tigapuluh forest block and others.

From APP/Sinar Mas Group, the companies clearing natural forest this year such as PT Bina Duta Laksana (5,569 ha), PT Artelindo Wiratama, PT Satria Perkasa Agung, PT Riau Indo Agropalma (7,814 ha), PT SPA-KTH Sinar Merawang, PT Suntara Gajapati, PT Balai Kayang Mandiri, PT Arara Abadi, PT Perawang Sukses Perkasa Industri, and PT Rimba Mandau Lestari (4,069 ha). Meanwhile, APRIL companies are PT Sumatera Riang Lestari (20,107 ha), PT Selaras Abadi Utama (4,812 Ha), PT Bina Daya Bintara (9,194 Ha), PT Citra Sumber Sejahtera, PT Mitra Kembang Selaras, and PT Lestari Unggul Makmur (2,899 Ha).


Meanwhile, The Forestry Ministry would deploy an independent team to verify environmental organizations’ allegations that APRIL clearing deep peat forest that protected by existing Laws in Kampar Peninsula. Riau Pos daily reported that

A senior economic minister said that the Government would verify PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper that clearing natural forest to develop its pulpwood plantation in the rich peat swamp forest of Kampar Peninsula, Riau Province, Riau Pos daily reported Friday (4/12/2009).  

Hatta Rajasa, the Coordinating Minister for Economy, said that the Government of Indonesia is concerned over climate change and deforestation issues, so it is needed to thoroughly examine the deep peat forest in Kampar Peninsula where APRIL’s concession PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) has been clearing natural forest and gained protest from environmentalist groups.

If the pulpwood operation has no effect to the ecology, the license granting would continue, Hatta Radjasa said. If the evaluation says that the logging operation is harmful, the license will be halted, “Even there should be a technical evaluation,” he said as quoted as saying by Riau Pos daily.

EoF learned both APP and APRIL had cleared thousands of hectares of natural forest in deep peat of Kampar Peninsula and Kerumutan forest blocks.

Kampar Peninsula, Kerumutan and Senepis peat forest blocks are habitats for endangered Sumatran tigers where APP and APRIL are clearing natural forest to convert into pulpwood plantations. At least 4 Sumatran tigers were killed this year, all occurred in Kerumutan forest.

Two villagers were attacked by a Sumatran tiger in Kerumutan, close to PT Bina Duta Laksana concession, an APP/SMG associated company, in February this year.