Today Eyes on the Forest published an Investigative Report highlighting indication of deforestation and clearing on High Conservation Value 1 area and peat drainage. Two suppliers of Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) / Sinar Mas in UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Giam Siak Kecil – Bukit Batu, Riau province, were investigated by EoF in early this year.
PT Arara Abadi (Sebanga and Melibur resort) and PT Sekato Pratama Makmur are the APP’s suppliers cleared natural vegetation regrowth in Sumatran elephant habitat and natural forest clearance in deep peat of over 4-meter depth respectively.
EoF conducted a field monitoring in PT Arara Abadi early this year around a coordinate point of N0°57'7.85" E101°40'45.33" and found a stack of fallen natural forest trees with more than 15-cm diameter breast height.
EoF requested written response to the company as APP responded to EoF findings in PT Arara Abadi that “EoF investigations confirm that the area in question was not found to contain natural forest. Clearance of overgrowth on cultivation areas is not deforestation.”
APP responded that “EoF correctly identifies the area being designated as HCV 1, specifically HCV 1.2 and HCV 1.3.”
Despite this admission, APP defended its supplier’s operation by saying: “However, EoF neglects to mention that silviculture is permitted in such areas if the value and function of the HCV is not impaired. This requires special High Conservation Value Management Area (HCVMA) practices…”
However, EoF learns that the finding location which is inside Sumatran elephant’s habitat should not be cleared for plantation even the area is under silviculture scheme. HCV Guidelines suggests that to maintain connectivity of elephant habitat’s corridor, it is needed pre-encryption of management by stopping production activity, hunting, and strategy to mitigate threats like anti-poaching patrol.
EoF also observed a large area of cleared land with a lot of fallen timber scattered on the ground in concession of PT Sekato Pratama Makmur. The cleared area is located on peat with over 4-meter peat depth and plantation development in this area is against the Government Regulation (Peraturan Pemerintah) number 57 year 2016 on Protection and Management of Peat Ecosystem.
On indication of natural forest clearing in peatland with over 4-m peat depth by PT Sekato Pratama Makmur, APP said: “we determined the area in question is part a production area, which borders, but does not encroach, protected forests.”
APP argued that “affected areas at PT Sekato Pratama Makmur do not contain critical peat domes. However, it is still peatland and must be managed according to best practices.”
Eyes on the Forest recommends APP/Sinar Mas to stop all activities in PT AA and PT SPM which are against the FCP, the SDG and pledged to support the Government program to reduce the GHG emissions: stop clearance of natural forest and natural vegetation in HCV areas including elephant habitat, peatlands and the UNESCO reserve and start implementing actions to implement those commitments.
EoF also urges APP to protect the wildlife populations living or using the concession areas to protect them from deadly human-wildlife conflicts which are caused by the loss and disturbance of their habitat by their operations and encroachers using the concessions.