Investigative Report: Two APP / Sinar Mas associated companies continue clearcutting of deep peatland forest of Kerumutan in Riau Province, Sumatra

EoF Investigative Report / 03 May 2010

EoF analysis of Landsat images found that by 2005, the majority of both concessions were still covered by quite dense canopy natural forest. However, by 2008, at least 9,678 ha and 6,560 ha of natural forest was lost in PT BDL and PT MSK, respectively. EoF found that that both companies, located next to each other, did not halt natural forest clearance during the de-facto logging moratorium that was in force between February 2007 and December 2008. This moratorium was due to a province-wide illegal logging investigation conducted by Riau Police with support by the National Police. 

As “Annual forest cutting permits (RKT)” issued by the Ministry of Forestry in March 2009 then they cleared around 1,000 hectares of Kerumutan peat forest each. The EoF investigation confirms that natural forest clearance operations by both APPaffiliated companies are legally questionable based upon existing laws and regulations based on the following: 

  1. They cleared natural forest with dense canopy cover which is not allowed to be converted into plantations,  
  2. They cleared natural forest on peat with a depth of more than 3 meters deep, which is not allowed to be converted into plantations, 
  3. A majority of the concessions overlaps with national Protected Area 
  4. Some of the concessions overlaps with provincial Protected Areas

PT BDL is one of 14 companies that were investigated by the police in 2007-2008 for alleged involvement in widespread illegal logging by the pulp & paper industry in Riau. In November 2007, the inter-departmental team set up by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recommended that the 14 companies should be processed thoroughly by the Law. However, in December 2008, 13 out of 14 companies cases, including PT BDL, were abruptly closed by the police as the dossier for them was rejected many times by the local Prosecutors Office. One company left to probe is PT RUJ which then also acquitted secretly by the police in June 2009. 

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has recently ordered the presidential Judicial Mafia Eradication Task Force to probe illegal logging practices as he believes the practices remain rampant due to the involvement of judicial mafia in the forestry sector. A coalition of NGOs has recently requested the Task Force to reopen the Riau illegal logging cases, including that of PT BDL.

The natural forest clearance and plantation development in these concessions do not provide any benefit for the local communities, moreover they create social-economic conflicts. Villagers suffer economic losses due to broken promises and ignorance by the companies. 

These forest clearance operations also significantly contribute to global climate change and to the local extinction of Sumatran tigers, as human-tiger conflict in Kerumutan block rose in 2009 and 2010. Kerumutan forest block is considered to maintain various High Conservation Values, one of them being a critically endangered species, Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae). 

The EoF coalition calls on PT BDL, PT MKS and APP/SMG to immediately stop all further clearance of natural forest in their concessions due to the questionable legality of their activities, social conflicts, threat to critically endangered Sumatran tigers and other High Conservation Values, and its potential negative impacts on the climate. In addition, the EoF coalition calls for a halt to all further development of canals, roads and other infrastructure to prevent illegal loggers, encroachers and poachers from entering the heart of Kerumutan and take other measures to protect the remaining forest and peat soil, as well as respect the communities’ rights. 

EoF calls on the Government of Indonesia to protect natural forest and peatlands by reviewing all forestry and plantation licenses granted to companies including to PT BDL and PT MSK in Kerumutan block. 

Last but not least, EoF also calls on APP/SMG stakeholders, including national and global companies as well as financial institutions, to not conduct any business with a 4 major driver of deforestation in Riau as well as impacting global climate change: APP/SMG. Every company that buys APP/SMG product or supports its operations is contributing to legally questionable forest destruction, further loss of natural forest in Riau and beyond, as well as contributing to suffering of local communities, population decline of already endangered wildlife and to climate change.