October 4, 2019

APP’s reaction to haze-causing fires dismissed

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) has reacted (Oct 3) to an article by the Strait Times (Sep 25), which includes quotes from a news report posted by foresthints.news (Sep 22), about haze-causing peat fires in a pulpwood concession it owns in Sumatra’s Jambi province by posting its position on the matter.

The company, one of the world's largest pulp and paper producers, alleges that the satellite data analysis referred to by the Straits Times, and derived from the foresthints.news news report, is inaccurate. 

APP forgets, however, that a company it controls (PT WKS) has proven itself unable to prevent haze-causing fires in its concession, given the fact that fires occurred again this September in the very same location as in 2015.

In its reaction, APP acknowledged and confirmed that peat fires had entered its concession areas, saying "We now have very clear chronological photographic evidence of the period concerned, from the 8th to 18th of September, indicating that the fires started outside our boundaries and only later encroached into APP concession areas." 

However, where the fires started is irrelevant. The above statement from APP is enough to show its failure to protect its concession areas.

This is supported by the Planet Explorer image below which shows that on 11 September haze-causing peat fires in the PT WKS concession had devoured parts of its conservation areas and commercial acacia plantation blocks. The burned peatland areas shown in this image are not areas allocated for community plantations. 

The distribution of canals depicted with blue lines in the image above confirms that portions of the commercial acacia blocks lying in the PT WKS concession areas have clearly also been partly burned.

No scapegoats

APP should not be looking for scapegoats by blaming the interpretation of satellite photos, especially given that the Planet Explorer image above very strongly highlights how APP has failed to manage its concession, thereby leading to the recurrence of haze-causing peat fires.

Although APP claims to have mobilized 3 helicopters, 15 excavators and 202 fire fighters, the evidence proves that the company has failed to prevent haze-causing peat fires from moving into its concession areas.  

APP is doing itself no favors by playing the victim in its response. Rather, the company should apologize to the public for the peat fires which recurred this September in the same locations as in 2015. Similarly, it had to comply with an order from the Indonesian government to apologize for 2015’s haze-causing peat fires.

The pulp and paper giant should really stop playing with words in its reaction because the facts demonstrate that it has failed to prevent fires in its concession which have contributed to a certain amount of haze, thus harming people in Indonesia and neighboring countries. 

APP’s concerns should not be confined to the PT WKS case. The company should also be aware that another of its concessions (PT FI), located in West Kalimantan province, has been sealed by Indonesian authorities due to evidence of forest and land fires there (Sep 12).