Peat forests targeted for restoration being converted into palm oil

(foresthints.news) - PT GAN, a subsidiary of the AMS Ganda Group / GAMA Plantation, has been proven to have violated the new peat regulations by developing new canals across almost its entire concession on two separate blocks over an area equivalent to 3,237 soccer fields.

The permit for the palm oil concession, located in West Kalimantan’s Kubu Raya regency, was granted to the company in September 2014. West Kalimantan province is one of the seven peat restoration priority provinces designated by President Jokowi in early January 2016.

According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the whole PT GAN concession plays host to the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan, and major parts of the concession lie in the Indonesian peat protection zones established in late February last year.

Furthermore, the peat forests fragmented by massive new canal development across the palm oil concession concerned lie in the targeted peat restoration map of the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) which was published in mid-September 2016.

The results of a spatial analysis conducted by the foresthints.news spatial team, using USGS Landsat 8 and ESA Sentinel-2 images on a time-series basis, prove that PT GAN began building new canals after a newly-revised government regulation was enacted in early December 2016 banning new canal development.

The following photos, taken by the foresthints.news team (Mar 25) in one of PT GAN’s blocks, depict the latest situation, exposing how the peat forests in the palm oil concession, which is home to the critically-endangered orangutan, have been fragmented by the extensive building of new canals for new palm oil plantation development by GAMA Plantation. 

The peat agency needs to answer a big question as to why it failed to detect massive new canal development in the peat forests, consisting of peat domes, which are situated in the two GAMA Plantation concession blocks and form part of the agency’s targeted peat restoration map. 

In fact, this situation reveals that the spatial and ground monitoring of targeted peat restoration areas by the peat agency is clearly very weak, especially considering that PT GAN’s location is not far from the city of Pontianak, is easy to reach, and is near the Trans-Kalimantan highway.

Global palm oil supply chains linked

The peat development carried out to build new palm oil plantations by GAMA Plantation, which impacts on the habitat of the Bornean orangutan's habitat, underlines that global palm oil supply chains remain connected with the practice of developing new peatlands. 

In addition to Wilmar and Unilever, GAMA Plantation is another supplier to other business groups. This means that global palm oil supply chains are still inextricably linked to new peat development, as demonstrated by the photos below taken in the PT GAN concession.

With regard to the peat violations perpetrated by GAMA Plantation, other global palm oil buyers and especially Unilever should take radical steps if they are really serious about disengaging themselves from new peat development and the destruction of the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan’s habitat.

The Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry could potentially impose a strict sanction on GAMA Plantation, such as those previously imposed on palm oil and pulpwood companies linked to peat violations, in particular new peat development.

Legal evidence of the violations, in the form of newly-developed canals spread across nearly all of the PT GAN concession’s two blocks, is easily accessible by means of satellite images as well as on the ground. 

The new peat development by PT GAN adds to the list of ongoing business-as-usual practices carried out by GAMA Plantation, including by another of its companies that continues to clear high carbon stock (HCS) forests in West Papua province to build new palm oil plantations, as reported earlier by foresthints.news (Mar 12).