Investigative Report: Peat swamp forest and community livelihoods threatened by PT Lestari Unggul Makmur, APRIL

EoF Investigative Report / 20 February 2010

PT Lestari Unggul Makmur (LUM) is a pulpwood plantation company associated to Asian Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL). Investigators team of Eyes on the Forest (EoF) have found PT LUM digging canals over 10 kilometers length, 12 meter width and 5 meter depth. 

During the investigation within September – October 2009, the team did not find any forest clearing in the concession as the residents informed that up to now PT LUM had not obtained operational license, eventhough they gained forest clearing or Annual Work Plan (RKT) by the Ministry of Forestry. 

Pulpwood plantation permit of PT LUM was issued on 31 May 2007 based on Minister of Forestry Decree number 217/Menhut-II/2007 with total size of 10,390 hectares in Bengkalis District (currently part of expanded Kepulauan Meranti District), Riau Province. In 2009, PT LUM in Riau Province obtained natural forest clearing permit or officially called Annual Work Plan (RKT) based upon Decree of Forest Plantation Management Director number 13/BPHT-3/2009 dated 13 April 2009, in size of 2,832 hectares and clearing target of 262,837 cubic meter of natural forest’s wood. 

APRIL’s associated company PT LUM had already dig peat canals and had not started natural forest clearing, however, the company’s activity had 3 incited fierce social conflict, where community of all villages in Tebing Tinggi subdistrict rejected the pulpwood plantation development by PT LUM.

Community worryingly consider negative social and ecological impact caused by the company’s activity such as community’s sago palm plantation extinction, the loss and sinking of strategically outer island Pulau Tebing Tinggi as well as ecological catasthrope for the lost of village’s buffer forest as well as peat subsidence. 

Majority area of PT LUM concession is peat forest in depth of 2-4 meter that should be protected based on regulations issued by the Government of Indonesia. Therefore, the plan of natural forest clearing as well as canals digging that conducted by PT LUM could allegedly breach the Laws.  The pulpwood plantation expansion by PT LUM is also destroying community’s economy which dependantly rely upon livelihood in sago palm, coconut, and areca palm plantation in Tebing Tinggi sub-disctrict.

The economic loss brought by the demise of agricultural production is estimated Rp1.6 billion per month (source: Riau Pesisir daily, 14 August 2009).  The main livelihood of Pulau Tebing Tinggi community sources from sago palm plantation. Nearly all families have planted sago palm for some generations as they rely on this livelihood. Therefore, the pulpwood expansion by PT LUM will directly strike the community’s economy significantly.