A report claiming the government has suspended major pulp and paper firm PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper’s (RAPP) operations for allegedly violating peat regulations could accelerate the strengthening of peatland protection, an environmental group has said.
Jakarta-based online news portal foresthints.news, which extensively covers forestry issues, reported that the Environment and Forestry Ministry had sent a warning letter signed on Oct. 6 declaring the firm’s 2010 to 2019 work plan and 2017 industrial forest work plan invalid. It was the second of such warning issued to RAPP this year.
RAPP’s operations are therefore deemed illegal until the firm’s new long-term work plan complying with the regulation is approved by the ministry.
“It sends a message to other companies to be more compliant to the government’s regulation on protecting the peatland ecosystem. This is a good start,” Arief Wijaya, World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia climate and forest senior manager, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
The move was based on the ministry’s field investigation on Oct. 5 in RAPP’s concession areas in Pelalawan regency, Riau, in which the company, which is a subsidiary of APRIL Group, was found to have replanted acacia in peat protection zones. The practice is prohibited under Government Regulation No. 57/2016 on peatland ecosystem protection and management.
The ministry’s director general for law enforcement, Rasio Ridho Sani, said as quoted by foresthints. news that RAPP had continued to engage in business as usual by ignoring the regulation, for instance, by maintaining water levels prohibited by the regulation.
The latest work plan revision deadline set by the ministry was Oct. 2. The ministry found that RAPP’s revised document did not comply with the 2016 peat regulation.
The 2016 regulation, which revises a regulation issued in 2014, requires companies with concession areas in peat protection zones to restore peatlands by replanting them with endemic vegetation. It also prohibits any parties from clearing land in peat protection zones, creating drainage and carrying out any activity that could destroy peatlands.
“Based on that regulation, it is enough for the ministry to issue a reprimand to APRIL,” said Arief.
Arief added drying peatlands by creating channels would lead to peat decomposition, a process that could further make peatlands susceptible to fire. “The massive fires in 2015 were partly caused by irresponsible peatland conversion.”
Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Riau executive director Riko Kurniawan said in the future, RAPP had to show it had intention to change and that it could produce in a sustainable way,” adding that the ministry must follow up its move declaring RAPP’s work plans invalid by carrying out monitoring of the firm’s activities based on peatland protection rules.
The Eyes On The Forest, a coalition consisting of the Riau Forest Rescue Network (Jikalahari), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia and Walhi Riau, said the practices found by the ministry’s on RAPP’s estate had run counter to the company’s pledge in 2015 to abide the law and commit to protecting peatlands.
Ministry spokesman Djati Witjaksono Hadi declined to comment on the report, asking the Post seek confirmation from APRIL instead.
APRIL corporate affairs director Agung Laksamana said in a statement that the company had received the ministry’s reprimand, saying it was still taking notes on the letter and that it hoped a “comprehensive” solution could be found.
“We believe the government can provide investment climate certainty amid increasing competition in the global market,” said Agung.
Agung said the company had a responsibility to ensure its work plan not only protected the environment but also protected the rights of its workers.