Investigative Report: Pulp industry continues clearance

EoF Investigative Report / 14 July 2010

On 26 May 2010, Indonesia and Norway signed a Letter of Intent to form a partnership “to contribute to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and peatland conversion”. Norway committed to support these efforts with one billion USD.  At the same time, APP and APRIL continue conversion of natural forest and deep peat in Riau province, already Indonesia’s province with the highest GHG emissions, and one of the candidates to become a REDD+ pilot province under the Indonesia-Norway agreement. 

Riau has become a global epicenter of deforestation and global pulp and palm oil production, driven by the who-is-who of the country’s palm oil producers, and two pulp & paper giants: the Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) headquartered in Shanghai, China and the Raja Garuda Mas Group’s Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (APRIL) headquartered in Singapore. Much of the deforestation is “planned”, based on permits solicited by the pulp & paper industry.  

This Eyes on the Forest report focuses on large scale deforestation by APP and APRIL against their own published sustainability policies and commitments to buyers, investors and the general public to protect High Conservation Value Forests, critical species habitats and the climate. Their actions challenge our President’s commitment to reduce the country’s carbon emissions. They undermine Indonesia’s commitment to ensure the survival of the critically endangered tiger.  

In its December 2009 Investigative Report, Eyes on the Forest reported on the background of a two year moratorium of all natural forest sourcing by APP and APRIL in Riau between 2007 and 2008 because of a large-scale investigation by police and anticorruption authorities into illegal operations. The investigation was suddenly cancelled amid questionable circumstances and resulted only in the prosecution of an ex local government official.   As a result of the police investigation, the Riau Forestry Service refused to issue permits to APP and APRIL wood suppliers even to restart natural forest clearance in 2009.

However, after changing regulations on the clearing of natural forest by the pulp & paper industry, the previous Minister of Forestry rushed to issue the permits himself, ahead of a new Government, and a new Minister of Forestry coming into power in late 2009.  By legalizing the clearance of natural forest by 25 companies affiliated with APP and APRIL, this has allowed the large scale pulping of the province’s remaining forests to restart with dramatic consequences: 

-Clearing of 5% of the natural forest remaining in Riau in 2008/9, an area twice the size of Indonesia’s metropolis Jakarta. 

-Clearing of large areas of natural forest after draining of peat with >3 meters depth in violation of existing law, including the globally recognized Kampar peninsula, considered to be the largest bio-carbon reserve in the region.  

-Undermining of the President’s global commitment to reduce the country’s mostly peat drainage related GHG emissions by up to 41%.