No peat restoration efforts across APP’s supply chain, concludes ministry’s monitoring

(foresthints.news) - Based on the results of ground checks it has conducted at a number of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) pulpwood concessions, Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry has concluded that no peat restoration efforts across APP’s supply chain this year.

Instead, APP has been carrying out replanting practices in last year’s burned peatlands, an activity prohibited by a ministerial regulation since mid-December 2015.

Furthermore, APP has not only been replanting acacia in last year’s burned peatlands in its operations in South Sumatra province, according to the ministry, but also performing this prohibited activity in peatlands located in its pulpwood concessions spread across Sumatra’s Riau province which were burned last year.

“APP must accept the legal consequences of replanting acacia in burned peatlands, considering that this has been outlawed since mid-December last year. These include removing the acacia that has already been planted in the burned peatlands,” explained San Afri Awang, Chairman of Peat Restoration Monitoring at the ministry, on Monday (Dec 5) at the ministry complex.

The ministry’s monitoring in one of APP’s pulpwood concessions in Riau, situated in the Giam Siak Landscape, demonstrated that APP has indeed replanted acacia in last year’s burned peatlands.

“APP should be avoiding the practice of replanting acacia in last year’s burned peatlands. They should be respecting the government’s prohibition,” admonished Professor San Afri, who also serves as one of the director generals at the ministry.

In early February 2013, APP launched its Forest Conservation Policy, which included a stated commitment to comply with Indonesia’s laws and regulations.

“If they comply with their own commitments (APP’s forest conservation policy), of course they also have to comply with Indonesia’s laws and regulations by not replanting acacia in last year’s burned peatlands. The NGOs which have had engagement with APP should have warned them about this,” the Director General asserted.

These photos illustrate how APP has failed to comply with Indonesia’s laws and regulations, including a failure to comply with its own forest conservation policy seeing that it has clearly replanted acacia in peatlands in its pulpwood concession, PT SPM, located in the Giam Siak Landscape, which were burned last year.

The DG suggested that NGOs which have been supporters of APP's Forest Conservation Policy should go to the field to see for themselves how APP is replanting acacia in last year's burned peatlands, something forbidden by the government.

“APP's Giam Siak Landscape has unclear conservation targets, which have been set merely to smooth over APP's business-as-usual practices," said San Afri.

Slow action

“Last year’s burned peatlands that have now been replanted by APP in its pulpwood concession in Giam Siak form part of the targeted peat restoration areas, as based on the indicative map issued by the Peat Restoration Agency. The peat agency, meanwhile, has appeared very slow in anticipating cases like this,” lamented Professor San Afri.

He reiterated that the formation of the peat agency by President Joko Widodo in early January this year was aimed at accelerating the restoration of peatlands, given that extraordinary efforts were deemed necessary to achieve peat restoration goals, as was clearly and explicitly laid out in the presidential regulation that established the peat agency.

“If the government simply employs business-as-usual practices in attempting to accomplish its peat restoration objectives, it’s the same as inviting the companies concerned to also conduct business-as-usual practices. In essence nothing changes - we are merely encouraging the peat fires to return again and again in the coming years.”

San Afri added that the ministry’s monitoring efforts form part of its attempt to ascertain to what extent peat restoration activities have been performed in concession areas this year, given that last year’s serious and massive peat fires occurred to a significant degree in these concession areas, and were especially prevalent in pulpwood and palm oil concessions.

“As of early December this year, the ministry’s monitoring has led to the conclusion that no peat restoration efforts have been carried out in APP’s pulpwood concessions,” said the DG indignantly.

In other words, the Director General has come to the conclusion that, based on the ministry's monitoring findings, the APP group continues with its business-as-usual practices which are compounded by a failure to undertake any peat restoration efforts across its supply chain.

Adding insult to injury, not only is APP still replanting acacia in last year's burned peatlands, but it is also replanting acacia in drained peat domes after the previous acacia harvest has been completed.