JAKARTA (foresthints.news) – Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry has finally made an official announcement on the findings of its assessment concerning Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)’s landscape conservation. It turns out that directive maps of this landscape conservation have been posted on the website of the Belantara Foundation, a foundation formed and funded by APP for the purpose of implementing its landscape conservation.
“Our ministry has made an official determination that APP’s landscape conservation is inconsistent with the country’s forestry and environmental laws and regulations. As such, we would never approve it,” Professor San Afri Awang, Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance at the ministry, told foresthints.news on Tuesday (Nov 7) at the ministry’s complex.
The Director General said that the ministry would soon be sending a letter to APP to convey the official decision of the ministry.
The Gadjah Mada University professor went on to confirm that APP had never been granted any authority whatsoever by the ministry for managing protection forests and conservation areas claimed as part of its landscape conservation. He then explained some more details behind the ministry’s rejection of the landscape conservation.
“They have cleared swathes of natural forest and dried out peatlands for years, enabling them to become the giant company they are today. Now, after doing this, they are trying to claim protection forests and conservation areas in a bid to rebrand their reputation. Of course this is unacceptable, especially in a legal sense.”
He then issued a stark warning to APP: “APP must focus on dealing with the hundreds of thousands of hectares of burned peatlands caused by last year’s peat fires which took place in their pulpwood concessions. This constitutes a legal obligation on their part.”
“They haven’t even managed to sort out their own pulpwood concessions, and you can add to that the number of violations they’ve committed. And now they want to take care of landscapes that don’t even form part of their concessions,” he said incredulously.
Professor San Afri alleged that APP is actually only using a landscape conservation approach to continue its regular operations which have been previously condemned. The proof of this, he explained, is that none of the vast burned peatlands in their concessions have been included as areas for restoration.
“APP just wants to proceed with its business-as-usual practices in the burned peatlands in their pulpwood concessions, particularly those located in South Sumatra province. They also want to continue their business-as-usual practices in the extensive drained peat domes in their concessions in the guise of best practices. This is undeniable. It’s a valid assertion.”
Meanwhile, Belantara Foundation CEO Agus P. Sari said that the foundation is waiting for permission from the ministry to enable it to support the management of conservation areas, in this case the conservation areas situated in APP’s landscape conservation map.
In a written message (Nov 8) in response to a question from foresthints.news, Agus stated: “If we don’t get permission from the government then of course we’ll withdraw. At the moment, we’re still in a consultation process with many other stakeholders.”
Agus also stated that the government was the key stakeholder in the issue, and thus it must be listened to and its directives complied with.
“As to those directive maps, that was simply an ‘idea’ and was not yet anything final. We are still facilitating this process by consulting with all relevant parties.”
The Director General asked “To what end is the Belantara Foundation creating legally misleading directive maps. What are their interests? Who are they? Who needs them? We, as the authority in the field of environment and forestry, have no need at all for such directive maps.”
He concluded by rejecting the notion that his ministry would ever approve the proposed landscape conservation. “Neither APP nor the Belantara Foundation has ever received permission from us, as the authority in the matter, to create directive maps for APP’s landscape conservation, in particular where state forest areas are involved, in this case protection forests, conservation areas and production forests.”
Peat agency issues denial
With respect to the exclusion of the peat restoration indicative map issued by Indonesia’s peat restoration agency (BRG) in mid-September from the directive maps of the landscape conservation posted on the website of the Belantara Foundation, Agus claimed that he had discussed the process of harmonizing these maps with Peat Restoration Agency Chief Nazir Foead.
“What Pak Nazir said to me was positive. I came to show him the maps. These are the BRG and Belantara maps of the Padang Sugihan Landscape, and we looked at ways in which we could harmonize them. It was just the two of us in the meeting. Pak Nazir said it was good and asked in what ways the BRG could help,” explained Agus (Nov 3).
When foresthints.news sought confirmation of this directly from the agency chief, Nazir denied ever having held a one-on-one discussion concerning the maps referred to by the Belantara CEO.
“I have never met with Pak Agus alone to discuss the APP-Belantara landscape conservation maps. I also never said that the APP-Belantara landscape conservation maps are positive and good. I have only met him once, when I heard about his experiences in financing REDD+ in Indonesia,” Nazir told foresthints.news on Tuesday (Nov 8).
Nazir added in a rising tone: “How could I speak positively and say things were good? I have never even seen the maps.”
In the Padang Sugihan landscape alone, three APP pulpwood concessions are located which last year were afflicted by peat fires.
A spatial analysis conducted by the peat agency shows that if the peat restoration indicative map had been included in the APP-Belantara landscape conservation directive maps, more than half a million hectares of acacia plantation blocks distributed across APP’s pulpwood concessions would have to be restored.
This is largely because of the extensive burned peatlands and drained peat domes spread throughout the concessions of APP, one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies.