Minister suspends logging operation by APRIL in Kampar

EoF News / 20 November 2009

PEKANBARU (EoF News)—The Minister of Forestry suspends natural forest clearing operation that conducted by PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), an associated company to Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL).

Riau Pos daily reported Thursday (19/11/2009) that Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan said he would review controversial permit that granted by APRIL in 48,000 ha forest in Kampar Peninsula block, Riau Province.

“During process of the permit's review we suspend temporarily the company’s activity, particularly in peat forest, in order to make the matter clearer concerning to peat forest management that granted by Ministry of Forestry to PT RAPP. Therefore, for time being I can’t comment on next step on this matter, as its process is underway,” Minister Zulkifli Hasan told the daily on Wednesday.

President Director of PT RAPP, Kusnan Rahmin denied the statement of the minister. He said that the company has complied with any regulations and the permit issued by the Minister of Forestry [Malam Sambat Kaban]. A parliamentarian from Riau at House of Representatives (DPR), Adi Sukemi said that Law number 32 year 1990 stipulated that peatland with more than 3 meter depth is prohibited to plant.

The suspension by the Minister of Forestry hailed by environmentalists in Riau. “From the beginning we do understand that the permit granted by the Ministry of Forestry in 56,000 hectare forest in Kampar Peninsula is against the existing laws, therefore the license should be annulled by the Minister of Forestry,” said Susanto Kurniawan, coordinator of Jikalahari.

At the hearing with Commission IV of House of Representatives on Wednesday, Wan Abu Bakar, a parliamentarian from Riau, urged the minister to audit companies holding forestry licenses such as the raw material demand that needed by the pulp and paper industry. “Because we suspect the HTI [industrial timber plantation] companies have exceeded their land coverage, they still exploit natural forest,” Wan Abu Bakar said at the hearing, website reported.

The Riau Forestry Service Head Zulkifli Yusuf said that the concession of PT RAPP overlap with five conservation areas such as Wildlife Reserves of Rimbang Baling, Tasik Pulau Padang, Danau Pulau Besar, and Tesso Nilo National Park. The size of expanded PT RAPP concession in the area as mentioned in the permit is 350,000 hectares (from initial 235,000 ha), and the Riau Forestry Service measured it and found the total size is 357,000 ha.

Zulkifli Yusuf also said that 20,000 hectares of area converted into pulpwood plantation is genuine converted production forest which prohibited for HTI pulpwood plantation before undertaking land use change from forest one.

EoF learned that APRIL only used its genuinely longtime permit as well as its old environmental impact assessment (Amdal) to propose expansion for HTI to the Government.