Controversy sparked over APRIL

EoF News / 18 November 2009

PEKANBARU (EoF News)--- An industrial timber plantation (HTI) permit issued by the Minister of Forestry sparked controversy as Riau Forestry Service insisted that the license have administrative and land use problems. The Minister of Forestry and Riau Governor defend PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper’s stance that was criticized and protested by Greenpeace and local environmental organizations.

Kampar Peninsula peat forest in Riau is not only spotlighted for police and Greenpeace controversy, but also now touch the issue of legality of permit that granted to Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL)’s associated company, PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP).

The Riau Legislative Council (DPRD) members also planned to investigate the controversial permit obtained by PT RAPP and supported the stance of the Forestry Service Head, Zulkifli Yusuf, who considered that the permit still had problems as he did not issue recommendation for the permit,” Riau Mandiri daily reported Wednesday (18/11/2009).

A Riau parliamentarian, Syafruddin Saan, said that there should be an investigation finding out the irregularities found on PT RAPP’s permit due to the Riau Forestry Service refused to issue recommendation for the license.

Syafruddin Said, PT RAPP has large pulpwood concessions recently so it’s not fair if it still gets expansion, Riau Mandiri reported (18/11/2009).

Zulkifl Yusuf last week said that HTI permit granted to PT RAPP in Kampar Peninsula had loophole in terms of administration and is overlapping with conservation areas, Kompas daily reported Saturday (14/11)/2009).

Zulkifli told that he had submitted a letter to the Minister of Forestry (Malam Sambat Kaban at that time) on 2 September 2009 for not continuing forestry services in APRIL’s proposed expanded area such as issuing annual clearing permit of natural forest. “But, until the Minister [Kaban] is replaced, my letter gets no response,” he  said as quoted by Kompas daily as saying.

The Forestry Service Head 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.

Minister Kaban issued the Decree number 327/Menhut-II/2009 on 12 June 2009 allowing PT RAPP to expand the pulpwood plantation development in Kampar Peninsula which is well-known as the remaining largest peat forest landscape in Sumatra with total size of 700,000 ha.

Greenpeace last week occupied PT RAPP’s concession in Teluk Meranti area protesting ongoing natural forest clearing by APRIL in the deep peat of Kampar Peninsula. The police dispersed and named Greenpeace activists suspects for illegally entering the others’ area without permission.

Greenpeace had built the Climate Defenders Camp in Teluk Meranti village early this month and amid the conflict with PT RAPP and its supporters, media reported that local community of  Kampar Peninsula demanded them to stay to continue calling on rich-peat Kampar Peninsula forest conservation.


The new minister

The Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan defended APRIL’s PT RAPP from accusations by NGOs saying that the company has fulfilled any requirements to clear forest. The company obtained recommendation from Governor of Riau, he said. “It’s complete, no loopholes.”

He accused that Greenpeace staged rallies and campaign in Kampar Peninsula for fame only, website reported Monday (16/11/2009). Greenpeace forest campaigner Bustar Maitar denied the minister’s accusation saying that his organization did not conduct campaign in Kampar Peninsula to find fame.

Several NGOs and community groups in Riau this week called on the Government to revoke the forest clearing permit held by APRIL in Kampar Peninsula as it is against the Laws and conservation values.

”The company’s bearing which ignores a call on Kampar Peninsula conservation shows its arrogance and also proves that APRIL who claimed its care for environment as a fallacious statement,” said Hariansyah Usman, Director Executive of Walhi Riau.

”Just prove if PT RAPP cares for sustainable environment by not clearing natural forest in Kampar Peninsula and by showing evidence and process of permit that obtained in area which is prohibited by the Law.”


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