Since 2009, villagers on Pulau Padang, an island off the east coast of Sumatra in Indonesia, have been protesting against pulp and paper company APRIL’s proposed 41,205 hectare pulpwood plantation on their island. In November 2011, in a dramatic protest aimed at illustrating how APRIL and the authorities were ignoring them, 28 of them stitched their mouths shut.
APRIL (predictably) denies that it has done anything wrong and claims to be “firmly committed to resolving any concerns and differences of opinion lawfully and through multi-stakeholder engagement”. On 4 January 2012, Greenomics Indonesia put out a report criticising APRIL’s plantation plans and requesting APRIL “to refrain from pressing ahead with its plans for Pulau Padang”. APRIL responded to Greenomic Indonesia’s report by arguing that the forest is degraded and that the best way of preserving it is to clearcut almost 40% of the island and convert it to monoculture plantations:
“The heavily disturbed nature of Pulau Padang as a whole . . . demonstrates the strong case for professionally managed plantations on the island, which not only act as buffer zones to protect the sensitive peat dome area but also help deter opportunistic logging and encroachment activity.”
Greenomics Indonesia responded by pointing out the gaping holes in APRIL’s arguments. (Thanks to mongabay.com for posting the links to this exchange.) There’s more about the situation on Pulau Padang in this ABC News documentary from last year about APRIL’s operations in Sumatra: “Sumatra – Paper/Tiger”.
As this guest post from Elfian Effendi of Greenomics Indonesia reveals, REDD threatens to make things even worse for the villagers living on Pulau Padang. The maps produced as part of the Norway-Indonesia US$1 billion REDD deal completely ignore the villagers and their farmland. According to the maps, APRIL’s concession and peatland forest (that under the moratorium on new forest concessions cannot be converted) cover more than 95% of the island, leaving only 5,000 hectares for the island’s more than 44,000 inhabitants.
Indonesia’s moratorium map fails to include data on settlements and smallholder farms
By Elfian Effendi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia
An analysis by Greenomics Indonesia shows that almost all of Pulau Padang, a small island located in Riau Province, is covered by the 41,205-hectare pulpwood plantation concession granted to PT RAPP/APRIL Group (shown in yellow), and the more than 64,000 hectares of peatland that is covered by the moratorium (shown in red). These two area together jointly account for 105,000 hectares of Pulau Padang’s total area of 110,000 hectares.
Thus, only a small part of Pulau Padang is not either colored yellow or red, despite the fact that the island is home to more than 44,000 people.
It is also clear from the moratorium indicative map that the moratorium has been applied indiscriminately as settlement and agricultural areas have been included in the area that is subject to the moratorium. It represents the results of the overlay of settlement areas based on the PT RAPP concession map and the Moratorium Indicative Map (both the 17 June 2011 version and the 22 November 2011 revised version.
Given this situation, we may confidently conclude that the moratorium has not just been arbitrarily haphazardly in Pulau Padang, but that the same situation has occurred in many other settlement and smallholder agricultural areas. This reveals that the Moratorium Indicative Map has not included data on settlements and smallholder agricultural areas, meaning that the Revised Moratorium Indicative Map of 22 November 2011 only accommodates business interests.
In fact, the Revised Moratorium Indicative Map shows that Pulau Padang is still part of Bengkalis Regency, whereas in actuality the island is now part of the newly created Kepulauan Meranti Regency.
It should be noted that smallholder agricultural areas in Padang Island cover more than 20,000 hectares, including paddy production and other types of cultivation. Most of this land is included in the area covered by the moratorium, plus land that is used for human settlements.
PT RAPP has targeted almost 24,000 hectares of natural peatland forest in its concession for clearance out of its total concession area on Padang Island of 41,205 hectares.
It may be confidently assumed that the timber from the clearance of the peatland forest on Padang Island will be used as raw materials for PT RAPP’s pulp and paper mills in Riau.
In conclusion, the combination of PT RAPP’s concession and the area covered by the moratorium has left the people of Pulau Padang sidelined on their own island.
The incorporation of data on settlements and smallholder agricultural areas in the Moratorium Indicative Map revision process is of the utmost importance so as to ensure that what is presented in the Moratorium Indicative Map is not far removed from what the reality is actually on the ground. In fact, the Ministry of Forestry Decree on the first revision of the Moratorium Indicative Map stated that the revision process was carried out based on field surveys.
Given the above, serious questions arise according to the level of validation that was conducted as part of the revision process given that settlement and smallholder agricultural areas are covered by the moratorium.
Was what happened in Pulau Island the result of a survey? In order to prevent what has happened in Pulau Padang happening again during the six-monthly revision process, data on the distribution of settlements and smallholder farms needs to be included if the ministry’s claim of conducting field surveys is to be given any credence.