Riau is and will be Indonesiaâ€™s epicenter for climate change from loss of natural forest and peat drainage. It had the countryâ€™s highest rate of natural forest loss and of peat soil degradation and their respective associated emissions in recent years. It has the largest volume of peat soil in Indonesia and the second largest area of natural forest in Sumatra. Most of all, much of the natural forest loss and peat degradation in Riau is â€œplanned, legal deforestation,â€ which would be easy to stop if government had the will to do so.
In July 2010, EoF reported on wide-spread natural forest clearance and peat drainage in Riau Province based on annual cutting licenses (RKT) issued by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry in 2009. Today, a new EoF investigation confirms that business as usual continues in Riau despite signing of the Indonesia-Norway forest-carbon partnership. Shanghai-based Asia Pulp & Paper (SMG/APP) and Singapore-based APRIL are undermining the Indonesia-Norway climate partnership by clearing up to five percent of the remaining natural forest in Riau, an area almost twice the size of Indonesiaâ€™s capital Jakarta.
The 2010 RKT permits , that SMG/APP and APRIL have acquired, allow the companies to clear good natural forests, 90% of which stand on peat soil. Most of the peat is more than 4 meters deep and is thus being drained and cleared in violation of Indonesian law. Most of the areas were either identified as having high conservation values (HCV); are inside the recently established UNESCO Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve; and/or are the internationally recognized important Tiger Conservation Landscapes of Bukit Tigapuluh, Kampar Peninsula, Kerumutan and Senepis-Buluhala.
Using examples from the UNESCO reserve and from Kampar peninsula, EoFâ€™s new report details how the reported clearance of natural forest and drainage of peat is in direct violation of both SMG/APP and APRILâ€™s public commitments to sustainability and the much repeated advertisements with which they applaud themselves for their own so-called â€œgreenâ€ achievements.
While harvesting of natural forest wood and draining of peat soil in Riau have been the main sources of Indonesiaâ€™s huge greenhouse gas emissions for years, REDD discussions in Indonesia have long neglected the global climate impacts of Riauâ€™s paper industry, allowing their devastating destructive operations and the resulting carbon emissions to continue unchallenged.
Based on the evidence presented in this report, Eyes on the Forest urges the Government of Indonesia to declare an immediate moratorium on all clearing of natural forest by these two paper companies to allow time for a thorough review of their operations and the licensing processes that lead to their clearance of natural forests and draining of deep peat against the laws of Indonesia. Given the devastating climate impact of the pulp industry, such a review of its operations should be highly instructive for the nationâ€™s REDD+ strategy.
It is not too late for action by the local and national governments, companies, people and the global climate community. If the Indonesia-Norway cooperation is to have an impact on reducing GHG from deforestation and forest degradation there is no better place to start than Riau.
Eyes on the Forest received the following comments by the Ministry of Forestry on this report:
1. Environmental safeguards for plantation development within the regulations are covered in the process of Macro and Micro delineation and the Ministry of Forestry are moving towards improving this in the process of awarding new license.
2. For existing permits, there are limited options to ensure that natural forest is not developed into plantation forest. As these permits are legally binding, the Ministry is seeking solution to ensure that the government can reduce that.
3. According to the laws of Indonesia, conversion of natural forest into plantation is not deforestation. The Ministry of Forestry has made plans on 30 million hectare of Production Forest that are not currently under management, and not all of those areas are for plantation. Only heavily deforested land will be given to plantation forest development and the rest will be allocated for community forest, natural production forest concession and restoration.