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APRIL’s ecological armageddon continues in Sumatra and North Kalimantan

Aerial photographs by Greenpeace reveal that Asia Pacific Resources International Limitied continues to clear peat forest in Sumatra, despite the company’s forest policy.

APRIL introduced its Sustainable Forest Management Policy in January 2014. APRIL claims that the recent logging complies with its forest conservation policy. This may well be true, since the policy allows new plantations to be established until December 2014 and timber from rainforests to be used in its pulp mills until 2020. Zulfahmi, a Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, described the policy as “a licence to continue forest clearance”.

The logging is taking place on peatlands inside a pulpwood concession on Pulau Padang in Riau Province. APRIL’s subsidiary PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper is clearing the forest and draining the peatlands in order to plant monoculture acacia plantations to feed APRIL’s pulp mills.

This, then, is what APRIL’s “sustainable forest management” looks like:

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In 2011, Bill Laurance, a forest scientist with James Cook University in Australia, visited APRIL’s operations in Sumatra. He described what he saw as almost an “ecological armageddon”. When he returned to Australia, Laurance said he “felt at some gut level really disturbed. It’s just the sense that there’s an environmental travesty ongoing here”. Three years later, the destruction is still happening, but now under the label of “sustainable forest management”.

APRIL’s logging operations are not limited to Sumatra. In April 2014, GAPETA Borneo, Kalimantan Forest Monitoring NGOs (RPHK) and WWF-Indonesia East Kalimantan carried out an investigation into APRIL’s operations in North Kalimantan. The three groups urged APRIL to stop forest clearing and peat canal drainage. APRIL denied that it was doing anything wrong.

In a statement, Kamiruddin, head of GAPETA Borneo, said,

“It appears that APRIL’s sustainability commitments are only on paper, but not in the forest. Their deforestation and peat canal excavation should be stopped as they cause serious environmental damages including carbon emissions. Deforestation on deep peat should also be stopped because it is protected by law.”

Meanwhile, Fauna and Flora International is working with APRIL to set up an ecosystem restoration project covering just over 20,000 hectares on the Kampar Peninsula in Sumatra. Muslim Rasyid, the coordinator of Jikalahari, an NGO based in Riau province, isn’t impressed. He told the Jakarta Globe that,

“What we see is that this is no more than greenwashing as they are still cutting trees elsewhere, such as Pulau Padang. We know RAPP’s track record of wood exploitation. Suddenly they’re changing the direction of their business to restoration?”

In January 2014, when APRIL released its Sustainable Forest Management Policy, the company announced the endorsement of Stig Traavik, Norway’s Ambassador to Indonesia. In an APRIL press release, Traavik was quoted as saying,

“We want to congratulate APRIL on its new Sustainable Forest Management Policy, in particular APRIL’s promise to involve local communities and ensure the environmental integrity of the policy. Openness and independent review will be key for this policy to succeed. We are now eager to see how APRIL will follow up this policy in practice.”

REDD-Monitor looks forward to reading Traavik’s response to APRIL’s ongoing destructive logging in Sumatra and North Kalimantan.

PHOTO Credit: Ulet Ifansasti, Greenpeace.

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