Two days ago, Greenpeace set up a Climate Defenders Camp on the Kampar Peninsula in Riau province, Sumatra. The camp will remain there for several weeks to highlight the importance of protecting forests on peat soils. The soils on the Kampar Peninsular store about 2 billion tonnes of carbon.
Much of the forest around the peninsular has been destroyed to make way for oil palm plantations and industrial tree plantations for the pulp and paper industry, in part by pulp and paper company APRIL. Now APRIL claims it want to protect the Kampar Peninsular with a REDD project. This week Forest Peoples Programme and Scale Up released a report titled “Indonesia: indigenous peoples and the Kampar Peninsular“. The report finds that APRIL has ignored the views of local people on the Kampar Peninsular.
The Kampar peninsular includes about 700,000 hectares of land mainly covered in peat swamp forests and mangroves. Most of the peninsular has been handed out in a series of logging concessions since the 1970s. Companies have cut canals through the peat to help extract the timber. Although logged, the forests retain high biodiversity. Surveys by Scale Up indicate that 33,000 people depend on the Kampar peninsular’s forests for their livelihoods. The communities have strong ties and customary rights to the land.
APRIL is one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies. Its subsidiary PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (PT RAPP) produces 2 million tonnes of pulp a year at its 1,750-hectare complex near Pangkalan Kerinci in Riau province. PT RAPP plans to double the capacity of its pulp mills, meaning that the company is looking to massively expand its area of industrial tree plantations to feed to the pulp mills.
On its website, APRIL describes its plans for the Kampar Peninsular as follows:
Plans remain firm for the development and protection of the Kampar Peninsula, a lowland area in Riau, Indonesia, which continues to deteriorate due to illegal logging and encroachment. This deforestation causes carbon outflow due to the absence of proper hydrological and ecological management. APRIL’s concept of a “plantation ring” around the Kampar Peninsula offers the most viable management option. The proposal covers a moratorium on current activities in the 300,000-hectare inland “core” of the Peninsula, and the development of an Acacia plantation ring on the largely degraded and fragmented perimeter to prevent access to the “core” by illegal loggers and encroachers.
APRIL’s ring of acacia plantations would cover a total of 150,000 hectares. The company claims that this plan would reduce emissions from the peninsular by about 14 million tonnes of CO2 per year and estimates that this “can be valued at US$17 million per year under the proposed Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme”. The plantations would be established on land that is currently “degraded” forest (or recovering forest, depending on your perspective). FPP and Scale Up note that “as presented, [the project] does not specify where local people would make their living or what rights they would have in the newly designated plantations, buffer zones and core conservation areas.” However, the company does claim to be “committed to meaningful collaboration with all stakeholders, including concerned NGOs and local communities while protecting the remaining high-conservation values of the Kampar Peninsular.”
In May 2009, FPP and Scale Up held a series of 10 workshops with communities and local authorities in the peninsular. They found that, “almost no one knew about PT RAPP’s plans for the Peninsular.”
“None of the communities had been given clear information about the project, no efforts had been made by the company to assess communities’ land use systems or customary rights, no measures had been taken to identify their representative organisations, and no negotiations had been undertaken to secure their agreement to the proposed project.”
PT RAPP has already secured the right to 97,000 hectares of industrial plantation permits on the Kampar Peninsular. Far from gaining the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the communities, which the company claims to be doing, PT RAPP is bulldozing ahead with its plans. On 20 June 2009, the community of Teluk Meranti wrote to PT RAPP pointing out that they had lived on and used the land that the company planned to converted to plantations since long before Indonesia’s independence. They have seen the impact of PT RAPP’s operations on other communities and therefore reject PT RAPP’s presence on their lands.
Land conflicts are common in Riau province – a result of the fact that Government land-use plans ignore customary rights and allocate lands (whether for conservation or for industrial plantations) without considering local livelihoods. FFP and Scale Up’s report describes one ongoing conflict with one of PT RAPP’s suppliers:
Meanwhile, at the provincial level, PT RAPP has also been heavily criticised for continuing to trade with one of its suppliers, PT Sumatera Sylva Lestari, even though the company was in a long-term land dispute with the local community of Bangun Purba. The community had sought resolutions to the land dispute since 1994 including making petitions to PT SSL, to the local authorities and to the forestry ministry in Jakarta. Denied redress, the community sought to occupy the disputed area, cleared the Acacia saplings and began to plant the area with crops of their choice. After police officers arrested two community spokespersons, the protesters took their complaints to PT SSL’s office. As night fell on 28 May 2009, the company allegedly armed its staff and security personnel with clubs and stones, corralled the protesters by sealing off the office compound using heavy machinery and proceeded to charge the community members, many of whom fled the beatings and stonings into the back-dam behind the offices. Sixteen persons were seriously injured, one of whom died from his injuries in hospital while two others were lost during the night, their dead bodies being discovered next day bruised and probably drowned at the back of the compound. NGOs have appealed to PT RAPP to suspend trading with PT SSL.
In a public statement first circulated in mid-August APRIL has recognised that PT SSL is one of its fibre suppliers but claims it does not manage or control PT SSL’s operations. APRIL has expressed ‘deep concern’ for the incident and has stated that it is ‘strictly against the use of violence in any form and expects the same community engagement standards in all supply partners’. It is now promoting dialogue through the provincial NGO Forum FKPMR (Forum Komunikasi Pemuda Masyarakat Riau) to try to resolve the land conflict between PT SSL and the communities.
FPP and Scale Up conclude their report by stating that the rights, visions and priorities of the people must be accommodated to achieve an outcome in which community rights, economic development and conservation are combined. Indigenous Peoples’ rights must be respected. “Alternatives that exclude local people will neither be sustainable nor just, and risk provoking further conflicts over land.”