More peatland fire disasters for Indonesia?

Pulp companies and Government not transparent with restoration plans for fire-prone peatlands

In October 2018, Auriga delivered a letter requesting data to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK). The letter specifically requested the revised data of business work plans (RKU) and annual work plans (RKT) for industrial plantation forests (HTI) operating in peatland areas.

“…the information requested by the requestee is in the process of being requested to related unit and we will immediately deliver it…,”

Ministry of Environment and Forestry to Auriga (17 October 2018)

Through April 2019, six months after the initial request, the Ministry has not provided the data.

Previously, in February 2017, KLHK established a map of Peat Hydrology Unit (KHG) with a total area of 24.7 million hectares. The map consists of 49.8 percent of cultivation zones and the rest of peat protection zones.

However, after overlaying the map with the natural forest cover, the Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan found that many peat protection function zones are on areas that have already been cleared and drained for oil palm plantation and HTI, especially in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Much of the area is dominated and controlled by two giant paper groups, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL).

APP suppliers operating in peatlands

APRIL suppliers operating in peatlands

HTI companies with operating areas included within the peat ecosystem protection zones were obligated to revise their business work plans (RKU) and annual work plans (RKT). The revision would include any plans for peatlands restoration, accompanied by complete maps. This process began in 2017.

On 29 January 2019, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) released a press release entitled “KLHK and BRG has restored 4 million hectares of peatland”. The statement was made without reference to maps or details on where the restoration was completed.

How can independent civil society organizations and  public verify the peatland restoration that has been claimed by the government?

The government should have learned from the 2015 disastrous forest fires. The government’s opacity on business permits, especially those located in peatlands, was one of the reasons the massive fire happened in the first place. Consequently, 2.6 million hectares of forest and land was burned, causing economic losses up to Rp 221 trillion and the evacuation of many people.

Given its non-transparent position on the peat restoration information, it seems the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is tempting yet another disaster. Not to mention that the lack of transparency in the process involving land allocation and use is prone to corruption and transactional behavior.

To prevent forest fire and land disasters from happening again, the Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan recommends that:

  1. The government (KLHK and BRG) and/or HTI companies affected by the policy of peat land ecosystem protection to publish revised their business work plan (RKU) and annual work plan (RKT), with plans of peatland ecosystem management and restoration included;
  2. KLHK should revoke its land swap policy;
  3. APP and APRIL and other HTI companies should publish their current HTI data and maps (existing plantation);
  4. APP and APRIL should compile (and compile) all of suppliers operating in peat land area and stop the entire utilization of fiber wood from drained peat area, as well as a phase-out plan from peat protected zone.