APRIL touts new restoration project, environmentalists doubt it

EoF News / 20 September 2013

EoF News (PEKANBARU) – Giant pulp and paper company, Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL), prepared a new restoration project to work on the heavily degraded peatlands in Kampar Peninsula, Riau province, Sumatra. Last month Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) banned the company to associate the giant’s products with the certification agency.

A subsidiary of the Singapore-listed agribusiness Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), APRIL, would work with Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in a USD17 million restoration of more than 20,000 hectares of damaged peatland in the Kampar Peninsula, reports said this week.

The company claims that its Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER) project will create a conservation area and green practice of pulp and paper industry in Indonesia by implementing the international standards of CCB (Community, Climate, and Biodiversity). RER announced on Saturday that the project’s work plan had been approved and will be started within two months.

As a flashback re-check, two months before APRIL’s new project campaign, the company had dodged an independent enquiry into its deforestation practices in Indonesia by withdrawing from FSC.

Finally, on 7 August 2013, the company was officially banned from using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) trademark due to its continued large-scale deforestation, social conflict and human rights violations which are in the contrary to FSC certification rules.

The APRIL’s restoration promise had been questioned by environmentalists since the company kept deforestation on going while simultaneously launched its restoration program.

The company’s notorious reputation in Riau can not easily be trust-worthy for local green groups who call the APRIL’s restoration “greenwashing” and said that the company was continuing to destroy forests in other parts of the province, such as the cutting of forests in a disputed concession on the peat-heavy Padang Island.

“What we see is that this is no more than greenwashing as they are still cutting trees elsewhere, such as Pulau Padang,” Jikalahari coordinator Muslim Rasyid told the Jakarta Globe. “We know RAPP’s [APRIL’s main subsidiary] track record of wood exploitation. Suddenly they’re [now] changing the direction of their business to restoration?”

Meanwhile, the giant company’s project was hailed by the Minister of Forestry, Zulkifli Hasan, who responded quickly to APRIL’s application to restore the peatlands while declining and abandoning several similar projects proposed by other organizations.