WALHI releases investigative report on APRIL forest clearing

EoF Press Release / 23 December 2009

WALHI RIAU Press Release - 22 December 2009

WALHI (Friends of Earth Indonesia) Riau releases Investigative Report on natural forest clearing by PT Sumatera Riang Lestari, an associated  company to APRIL  in Pulau Rangsang, Kepulauan Meranti district of Riau province, Sumatra

An Indonesia’s strategic outer island threatened to sink, thousands of villagers’ rights seized by natural forest clearing operation

PEKANBARU, Indonesia, 22 December 2009—Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI/Friends of Earth Indonesia) of Riau office today releases an Investigative Report on natural forest clearing by  PT Sumatera Riang Lestari, an associated company to Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL). At least 1,000 hectares of natural forest in Rangsang Island (Pulau Rangsang), Kepulauan Meranti district, Riau Province, had been cleared by PT SRL, started in May 2009, which is threatening one of few strategic outer islands in the country to sink as well as the emission carbon from the peatland.

WALHI Riau has conducted investigation in concession of PT Sumatera Riang Lestari (PT SRL) in Pulau Rangsang during July-August 2009. The investigators team found piles of logs that estimated contained 1,500 m3 and piles of timber for pulp material 5000 m3. In addition to this, the investigators team found 4 excavators pulling felled trees.

PT SRL also dug peat canals in the area and prepared to construct logyard in the designated dock. WALHI team found that the dug canals had reached 10 km length and 12 m width with 5 m depth.

Tim WALHI has collected information and data from local villagers related to PT SRL’s pulpwood expansion in Pulau Rangsang. Some documents expressing refusal by villagers of 13 village in Rangsang sub-district, had been obtained by WALHI. It showed what a fierce the rejection by villagers was against the peat forest by APRIL’s PT SRL.  

”The presence of HTI [pulpwood] by APRIL’s associated company obviously will be imminent threat to locals, either from ecological aspect or in term of their own survival,” said Hariansyah ”Kaka” Usman, Director Executive of WALHI Riau. ”The pulpwood operation will eliminate community’s rights to gain living resources from their own forest as they dependently rely on such a natural wealth.”

Pulpwood expansion by PT SRL occurred in peatlands that should have been protected, hence it caused significant carbon emission. The expansion by pulp company is also conducted in natural forest that should have been preserved for its good condition. WALHI Riau reckoned that HTI expansion by PT SRL also threatened survival of endangered species as well as endangered species Ramin tree (Gonystylus bancanus).  The operation by the company also ignites shoreline abrasion in the strategic island as well as drought in several lagoons (tasik) due to peat canal draining.

On this investigation, WALHI has found several attention-grabbing things, such as irregularities and controversies that people should scrutinize. PT SRL’s  permit in Pulau Rangsang for the 18,890-ha concession is part of  total concession size of 215,305 hectares, which previously indicated deriving from former selective logging concession (HPH) permit belongs to  PT National Timber. The logging license or Annual Working Plan (RKT) for PT SRL is granted directly from the Ministry of Forestry by ignoring the pro-active participation by the Province Forestry Service as it used to be.

“Certainly, this is something we have to question why the recommendation by the authorized agency in the province cannot be consideration for this decision making,” says Hariansyah Usman. WALHI Riau also indicates that the company’s operation is not completed by Amdal environmental audit requirement as well as authorized official recommendation from the province as the company admitted that they granted by recommendation letters  Bengkalis District Head (before it expanded to Meranti administration) and the Governor of Riau.

APRIL’s PT SRL pulpwood operation has incited social conflict and unrest suffered by the locals as proved by many protests expressed by the villagers who feel threatened to survive due to the company’s activity.  ”Natural forest clearing in the peatlands by PT SRL is not only threatening peat swamp forest of Pulau Rangsang,  but also menace the Indonesia’s outer island which is very strategic in terms of the Republic of Indonesia’s national defense and security. Surely, it will be a serious problem and we cannot ignore it at all,” Hariansyah adds.

Due to many problems brought about by the pulpwood expansion as well as many interests are in jeopardy, starting from community’s socio-economy, natural forest, peat swamp ecosystem, endangered Ramin species, wildlife, the Indonesia’s strategic outer island, and the release of carbondioxide, therefore Walhi Riau  calls on Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (APRIL), PT RAPP and PT SRL to halt clearing natural forest in Pulau Rangsang. Walhi also calls on the Ministry of Forestry to review and revoke the permit granted to PT SRL due to many setbacks caused to ecosystem and community, in addition to permit controversy that allegedly indicated to corruption practices.  

For further information and to obtain the Report, please contact:

Hariansyah Usman : mobile phone: +62-812 766 999 67

Original article in Bahasa can be found at www.walhi.or.id