January 13, 2020

Carbon concession linked to fires sealed off

JAKARTA ( - The Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry has sealed off the PT Rimba Makmur Utama (RMU) ecosystem restoration concession (Jan 6) because it is linked to peat fires raging across an area equivalent to 1,700 soccer fields in its concession which spans two regencies in Central Kalimantan province. 

The RMU concession, which is twice the size of Singapore and home to Bornean orangutans, is also known as the Katingan Mentaya project.

This carbon finance-based concession also endured burning in 2015, while last year it was struck by haze-causing peat fires from August until early November.

"The RMU concession in this peat ecosystem has quite open access and many canals within it. There are also still unresolved land conflicts with local communities there," said Sustyo Iriono, the ministry’s law enforcement and forest protection director (Jan 10).

"The level of susceptibility to fires is fairly high in the RMU concession, whereas the ability to cope with fires in this concession, especially with regard to facilities and infrastructure, still does not meet full legal compliance,” he said.

He explained that the results of verification on the ground by the ministry's law enforcement team indicated that there are still 23 facilities and infrastructure items required for dealing with peat fires that still lack legal compliance status. 

The following photos from the ministry's law enforcement team show burned areas from fires in the RMU concession that took place in two spots. These are based on slides presented by the forestry authorities derived from its ground-based verification report (Jan 6).

“What I’m explaining here is based on field verification results that are known to and have been confirmed by the company representatives,” Iriono asserted.

He pointed out that the sealing of concessions linked to fires forms part of the ministry’s supervisory and guidance efforts. Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, he added, has consistently emphasized these two key components of law enforcement actions

RMU responds

CEO of PT RMU Dharsono Hartono stated in writing to (Jan 11) that his company continues to carry out routine activities as usual in almost the entire RMU concession.

“We are not performing operations in burned areas which have been verified by the ministry’s law enforcement team,” he wrote. 

With respect to the ongoing lack of facilities and infrastructure for handling fires in the concession, he confirmed that the company is to immediately fulfill full legal compliance.

“We are also continuing to mitigate potential land conflicts with local communities inside and around our concession,” he insisted.

The company’s CEO concluded his response by declaring that “We will definitely continue to improve our performance in preventing peat fires in and around the RMU concession with the guidance of the ministry.”

Second sealing after WWF concession

The sealing of the RMU concession is the second law enforcement action undertaken by the ministry against ecosystem restoration concessions linked to haze-causing fires.

Previously, as reported earlier by, the ministry’s law enforcement team also sealed the WWF’s ecosystem restoration concession (PT ABT), which lies in parts of the Bukit Tiga Puluh landscape, due to fires.

The latest update (Jan 6) shows that a total of 90 concessions have been sealed by the ministry, most of which are palm oil concessions that are RSPO members, including many Malaysian and Singaporean companies. Logging and pulpwood concessions are also on this list.