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Indonesian ecolabeling initiative providing cover for rainforest destruction

The Indonesian Ecolabel Institute is facilitating rainforest destruction by issuing “sustainable forest management certificates” to companies that convert natural and peatlands into industrial timber estates, allege national environmental groups.

Telapak and Forest Watch Indonesia say the Indonesian Ecolabel Institute (LEI) has issued sustainability certificates to two companies with documented environmental abuses in Sumatra: Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, a subsidiary of Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd., and Wira Karya Sakti, a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper.

“LEI’s certification only looks at how the timber estates are managed once operational, without considering the significant ecological impacts of forest conversion, especially in peat ecosystems. These industrial timber estates are built by converting natural forests into monocultured plantations, which is clearly against the principles of sustainable forest management,” said Wirendro Sumargo, Executive Director of Forest Watch Indonesia.

The environmental groups say that the Indonesian government is part of the problem — it has been issuing new industrial timber estate licenses on lands that have standing forest.

“The government has several criteria for timber estate development that stipulate they must be on barren land or land without forest cover,” the groups said in a statement. “In reality, many timber estates have been established on logged-over areas in productive forests and even in virgin forests.”

The groups cite a recent concession concession granted to PT Selaras Inti Semesta, a subsidiary of the Medco Group, in Papua as an example. Analysis of the concession shows that 44 percent of the 259,000-hectare concession is “good natural forest”.

“Establishing industrial timber estates on natural forest and peat ecosystems means ignoring the risks of deforestation, forest fires, social conflicts and climate change,” said Wirendro. “Such certification must be halted until there is a guarantee that industrial timber estates will not be allocated on productive natural forest and peat ecosystems.”

“Industrial Timber Estate certification like the ones in Sumatera are a misleading eco-label,” said Husnaeni Nugroho, Telapak forest campaigner. “LEI must stop this scheme or the forests in Papua will suffer from great risks associated with forest conversion.”

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