By Chris Soh
Indonesia’s largest environmental non-government organisation (NGO), WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), has emphatically stated that last year’s widespread peat fires in Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)‘s pulpwood concessions were intentional.
In an interview with environmental portal Foresthints.News, WALHI stated that peatlands which were burnt last year during the haze episode of 2015 have now been replanted with acacia by the giant pulp company.
According to WALHI, the use of burned peatlands for the replanting of acacia is a move aimed at pursuing targets, given that the acacia yielded from this replanting will later become a source of fiber supply for the new APP company, PT OKI Pulp and Paper Mills in South Sumatra.
This new mill, which has begun operations, is located in the vicinity of the burned peatlands in the APP concessions, major parts of which were burned last year.
In speaking to Foresthints, Executive Director of WALHI South Sumatra, Hadi Jatmiko, was responding to the results of monitoring performed recently by Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry.
The monitoring clearly shows that the APP concessions operating in Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency, in South Sumatra province, have replanted burned peatlands in direct contravention to a ministerial regulation issued in mid-December last year.
Hadi expressed his gratitude for the ministry’s actions in the form of on-the-ground monitoring, which demonstrated the extent of incompliance on the part of the APP companies and suppliers, to the point where they have replanted acacia in burned peatlands in clear violation of existing regulations.
Said Hadi: “We appreciate the monitoring conducted by the ministry. However, we also urge the ministry to apply maximum law enforcement efforts so that these types of practices are never repeated. This is even more important considering that the burned peatlands in the APP concessions are dominated by peat domes.”
The attached photos, which were taken from video footage which formed part of the ministry’s monitoring of the APP concession PT BMH, illustrate ongoing business-as-usual practices in the burned peatlands. In August this year, the High Court of Palembang declared that PT BMH had committed an unlawful act with respect to peat fires in 2014.
WALHI also asked the Indonesian ministry to review the permits of the APP companies in question, bearing in mind that most of the APP concessions in these peatlands are located in peat domes and deep peat.
“This request of ours is consistent with both existing regulations as well as the government’s current commitment to protecting peat domes, including deep peat,” Hadi explained to Foresthints.
In Singapore, there has been no action on any of the companies served with notices under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) in 2015.
Court action of any sort against APP or any of the other companies served with notices will not be an easy task for Singapore’s National Environment Agency, as they will need the information to be confirmed by the Indonesian government.
As this is highly unlikely to happen, one can only guess when there will be any kind of closure to the haze episode of 2015.
More importantly, the question to ask would also be if the THPA is a dud act with absolutely no teeth whatsoever.
APP’s products like Paseo and Livi are still off the shelves in Singapore after more than a year, and one can expect that it will be a long while before the company gets their products back on the market in Singapore.