Instead of protecting, authorities involved in forest encroachment

EoF News / 04 April 2014

EoF News (PEKANBARU) - Joint military operation in Giam Siak Kecil (GSK) Biosphere Reserve, Bukit Batu, Bengkalis Riau, in late last month revealed the involvement of two former police chiefs, a high-ranking TNI-AU (air force), as well as a number of police and military service members and government officials on the encroachement of the internationally recognized protected area. The area is always burnt annually then converted to plantations, media reported.

Giam Siak Kecil Biosphere Reserve is a conservation area inaugurated by the United Nations for the sake of research and education. However, the sanctuary which is located in two districts, Siak and Bengkalis districts, is now in a severely damaged condition and was the biggest contributor to Riau’s latest haze catastrophe in this year.

Not only in Giam Siak Kecil (GSK) Biosphere Reserve, there was also a colonel who owns 300 hectares in Tesso Nilo National Park, Disaster Management Task Force Commander Brigadier General Hood County Prihadi Agus Irianto said.

Media Indonesia disclosed that the conversion of thousands of hectares of the conservation area was started by the illegal logging of two coorporates in 1997, started from Bukit Abbas Village then spread to Bukit Kerikil Village. After the illegal loggers left, the lands were converted into palm oil plantations. “The lands were then sold to the public, including officials,” Sunardi, Bukit Kerikil Village farmer group leader, explained to Media Indonesia.

According to Media Indonesia’s observation, there are at least 12 people owning lands in GSK biosphere with various width. The largest is owned by an Army, Sergeant S, which is 1,500 ha. Two former chiefs of Riau Police, Brigadier General (Ret.) BS and Assistant Commissioner MH own 200 ha and 100 ha each in GSK. Then there is also the First Marshal of the Air Force who is known to have over hundreds hectares and a parliament member that also rules over plantations in the sanctuary.

Local media Tribun News Pekanbaru also mentioned that one of one of the candidates that will go for this year’s election is also in Prihadi Agus Irianto’s list. “There are some names reported, Aseng is the most familiar as he is a candidate in this year’s election,” Prihadi said.

Muslim Rasyid of Riau Forest Rescue Network (Jikalahari) demanded severe punishment for all names, both authorities and companies involved in logging and encroachment of protected areas in Riau. "Those people that should be the role models are law breakers, this must be put on public attention and they deserve more severe senteces,” Muslim told the press as quoted on

Muslim also explained that the biosphere reserve is now largely controlled by Sinar Mas group. He added that when the people come over the area, the company should report it to the government for further action. “But if it is a form of negligence, then the government may revoke company’s license of management,” he said.

Illegal encroachement with land trading is a common mode of land clearing for palm oil plantations. One common method used to clear the land/ forest is fires that already caused an annual disaster to the province.

Ministry of Environment stated that there are 45 timber plantation and palm oil companies indicated in the initial examination of forest and land fires case this year, hence law enforcement against corporates must be continued. “The 45 companies are still under further identification. They could be involved and could be not. If proven to be involved, we proceed to the investigation,” the Minister of Environment Balthasar Kambuaya told Kompas daily.