September 22, 2019

Spreading peat fires in APP concession causing haze

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - There is a set of undeniable evidence that peat fires within and around a pulpwood plantation concession (PT WKS) owned by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP/Sinarmas) have been escalating. The APP concession, situated in Sumatra’s Jambi province, covers almost 300,000 hectares in total, or four times the size of Singapore.

This is not the first time that haze-causing peat fires have taken place in the PT WKS concession. Most of the same locations in the concession were afflicted by peat fires in 2015, for which the company was hit with a sanction from the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry.

Now, once again, like in 2015, peat fires in the APP-owned concession are contributing at a certain level to the haze concentration in Sumatra, meaning that APP is still a haze producing company this year. 

The following ESA Sentinel-2 satellite images, prepared by the foresthints.news spatial team, show peat fires burning again in 2015’s peat fire locations in the PT WKS concession (delineated in red). These have spread across the APP company’s conservation and acacia plantation blocks.

The peat fires are currently still raging in the PT WKS concession and its surrounding areas. According to APP (Sep 17), efforts are underway to extinguish the haze-producing fires, but this is no easy task given that burning peat is extremely difficult to put out.

The peat fires are not just confined to the same locations affected in 2015, as other parts of the PT WKS concession are also burning. Legally, the APP company must take responsibility for any peat fires in its concession regardless of the cause.  

For example, peat fires are also burning in another part of the PT WKS concession, as portrayed in the ESA Sentinel-2 satellite images below, said to be a community plantation block by APP. However, in practice, this area remains planted with acacia and the community receives just a small portion of the benefit sharing after harvest.

APP, APRIL concessions sealed

Data from the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry (Sep 12) reveals that evidence of forest and land fires was also found in another APP concession (PT FI) in West Kalimantan, leading to its sealing by the ministry.

In addition, a concession owned by APRIL (PT RAPP), as well as that of one of its key suppliers (PT SRL), both of which lie in Sumatra’s Riau province, were also sealed by the ministry last month as a consequence of land and forest fires.

These three companies, two of which belong to two of the pulp and paper giants, are among over 50 companies which to date (Sep 19) have been sealed by the ministry. These include the WWF concession (PT ABT) as well as various Malaysian palm oil concessions.

During a visit to Pekanbaru (Sep 16), the capital of Riau which is one of the provinces worst affected by the haze, President Joko Widodo urged law enforcement officials to intensify their actions in response to the ongoing forest and land fires.