Environmentalists back up Kampar Peninsula community

EoF News / 28 October 2009

PEKANBARU (EoF News) –- Ongoing natural forest clearing in Riau province have escalated conflict between communities and pulp company as environmentalists groups vowed to support the villagers’ rights.
Several environmentalist and conservationist groups protested forest operation by Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL)’s associated company, PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, in 56,000 hectares of natural peat swamp forest in Kampar Peninsula, Riau Terkini.com reported Tuesday.
Several NGOs in Riau released yesterday (27/10/2009) a joint statement rejecting forest clearing by APRIL associated company in Teluk Meranti village of Kampar Peninsula due to it is against the community rights over the land cleared by the giant pulp company.
The groups said they would defend the cause of community in regaining their rights to manage their ancestors’ forest.
“We consider that PT RAPP has been conducting serious violation and threatening 56,000 hectares out of 665,000 hectares of natural forest size in Kampar Peninsula landscape which is located in Pelalawan and Siak districts,” the release said.
Teluk Meranti villagers who live in and have rights on forest land in the area are struggling hardly to maintain their rights that threatened by PT RAPP’s operation, it said.
The joint statement issued by Jikalahari, Walhi, Scale Up, LBH Pekanbaru, Kabut Riau, Mitra Insania, Greenpeace SEA, Yayasan Bahtera Alam, Yayasan Alam Sumatera, and KBH Riau saying that the forestry operation by PT RAPP has abused human rights to the locals.
The operation has posed serious threat to survival of villagers livelihood and their next generation will lose the forest and non-forest products as they used to manage, the organizations said.
The Ministry of Forestry issued new annual cuttings for pulp and timber companies in Riau province as illegal logging cases closed by the Riau Police end of last year. It is easy to find out trucks loading logs from cleared forests to pulp mills in the province.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace Southeast Asia set up a camp for NGOs and journalists in Teluk Meranti of Kampar Peninsula in an attempt to highlight the threats to the climate change as many pulpwood and palm oil concessions will convert peat swamp forest in the area.
In Meranti district, a newly expanded administration in Riau Province, community of Tebing Tinggi sub-district lodged complaint last week (21/10/2009) to Riau Province Legislative Council (DPRD) over existence of a forestry companies, PT Lestari Unggul Makmur.  
Both are APRIL associated companies clearing natural forest in Kerumutan peat forest.
Sub-district head of Tebing Tinggi Azmi Ibrahim told the legislators that the villagers rejected the operation of the pulpwood company PT LUM in the area due to it has no benefit to the locals. The operation by the forestry company will threat the ecosystem as it dig peat canals to ease the forest operation, the sub-district head, Riau Terkini reported last week (22/10/2009).
“We expect provincial parliamentarians can endorse the review to pulpwood concession license for PT LUM due to the operation it runs feared to impact negatively to the villagers’ plantation production,” Azmi Ibrahim said.
The legislators suggested the villagers to take a legal standing, the website reported.