Up to 1,400 hectares of forest have been cleared in a concession belonging to an Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) supplier in Borneo, potentially putting the company in breach of the forestry giant’s zero deforestation commitment, reports a coalition of local NGO’s.
In a report released Tuesday, Relawan Pemantau Hutan Kalimantan (RPHK), a coalition of NGO’s in part supported by WWF-Indonesia, said that blocks of natural forest have been cleared in a concession belonging to PT Daya Tani Kalbar (DTK), an APP supplier. The clearing has taken place since APP’s moratorium went into effect February 1, 2013.
“RPHK analyzed historical satellite images and conducted a field investigation in November 2013,” states the report. “RPHK found that ‘pulpwood plantation areas’ A, B and C identified on APP’s ‘moratorium map’ still had blocks of natural forest remaining on the day before the moratorium deadline of 31 January 2013. These blocks had disappeared by November 2013.”
“Historical satellite images prove DTK continued clearing natural forest standing on peat soil long after the moratorium deadline in three separate areas.”
MoF land cover map for 2011 and historical satellite images between September 2012 and
November 2013 in and around the ‘pulpwood plantation’ area C delineated from the ‘moratorium map as of 31 January 2013’ published by APP. Courtesy of RPHK
APP’s forest conservation policy commits it to protecting high conservation value and high carbon stock lands, as well as mitigating conflict with local communities. The policy, which applies to all new plantation development and all of APP’s suppliers worldwide, requires assessments of natural vegetation prior to conversion. APP will only accept fiber from new plantations established on land that is classified as “old scrub” under Indonesia’s forestry classification system.
But the RPHK report alleges that no assessment was conducted in the areas cleared by DTK.
In response to the allegations, APP says it is investigating the case.
“We recently received a report by a coalition of NGOs (RPHK) raising a number of concerns about our supplier PT Daya Tani Kalbar (DTK) in Kalimantan and an alleged breach of our Forest Conservation Policy,” an APP spokesperson told mongabay.com. “Our policy is clear – no natural forest clearance is permitted anywhere in our supply chain and every supplier has been instructed accordingly.”
“We, together with TFT, are currently assessing this latest report. We will publish our findings and response to RPHK as soon as this verification process is completed.”
Google Map of the concession area
It is not the first issue to arise in DTK’s concession. In March, RPHK documented forest clearing in the same area. A subsequent investigation by APP and The Forest Trust (TFT), an NGO that is implementing APP’s policy, confirmed forest clearance but found that the issue was an overlapping concession license to develop the area. A palm oil company unaffiliated with DTK or APP was chopping down trees and draining peatlands to establish a plantation.
Overlapping concession licenses are indeed a complicating factor in land management in Indonesia. Last summer’s haze provided several cases where public concession data didn’t match realities on the ground.
However the RPHK report says that overlapping licenses are no excuse.
“If overlapping allegation in forest clearance is proved true, then it shows failure of PT DTK in fulfilling its legal obligation to prevent illegal logging and illegal land clearing its own concession.”
RPHK adds that DTK, along with other APP suppliers, accelerated natural forest conversion ahead of the forest conservation policy’s adoption.
“Much more natural forest apparently could have been saved had the company not initiated a last minute rush to clear natural forest before the moratorium deadline,” said the report. “In September 2013, the company revealed that 15 suppliers cleared much more tropical forest wood than APP’s pulp mills used.”
But Scott Poynton, the head of TFT, urged withholding judgement until a field visit has been conducted.
“No doubt it’s deforestation, we just need verification of who is guilty of doing it,” Poynton said via Twitter. “Field visit is underway”
“It’s a huge challenge, 2 legal licenses, who wins?,” Poynton said in a second tweet. “If it’s overlapping license issue, how’s APP handling those situations?”
Logged tropical forest trees with natural forest remaining in the background (photo taken at S0°44’28.66″ E109°53’16.35″). Courtesy of RPHK
While the new allegations are bound to raise concerns among some environmental groups on APP’s commitment to conserving forests, they also illustrate the complexity of implementing the policy across a web of suppliers and hundreds of thousands of hectares of undeveloped concessions. For its part, APP has set up systems for handling complaints and resolving conflicts brought to light by NGO’s. Lately APP has been working with both TFT and Greenpeace, a traditional adversary that ran a damaging three-year campaign against the paper products giant, to address issues that arise.
Greenpeace’s engagement with APP and WWF’s emergence as a fierce critic represent an unusual role reversal for the groups, but both agree that market transformation is critical to addressing deforestation, which is increasingly driven by industrial actors, rather than subsistence farmers. Private sector leadership from forestry and plantation companies, which heavily shape Indonesian forest policy, is seen as key to shifting the country away from the business-as-usual approaches that have wrecked almost half the archipelago’s forests since 1950. Therefore recent commitments from APP, Indonesian palm oil grower Golden Agri-Resources, and palm oil trader and producer Wilmar are generally viewed positively as progress toward that end. Holdouts like Bumitama, Duta Palma, and APP’s top competitor, APRIL, are increasingly targeted by environmentalists for failing to adopt stronger sourcing safeguards.
CITATION: Relawan Pemantau Hutan Kalimantan. APP Moratorium: Deforestation Continued. Dec 17, 2013.
NOTE: Updated 12/20 with Twitter comments from Scott Poynton.
(12/04/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) will not convert any blocks of forest found to have high conservation value or substantial carbon stocks as it expands in Indonesian Borneo, according the forestry giant’s managing director of sustainability. Responding to a report published by Greenomics, Aida Greenbury said APP’s 10-month-old forest conservation policy applies to four suppliers operating in East and West Kalimantan.
(10/29/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), an Indonesian forestry giant once notorious for destroying rainforests and peatlands, is making ‘encouraging’ progress in phasing forest destruction out of its supply chain, reports a new assessment from Greenpeace, which until recently was one of APP’s fiercest critics. The review, released today, evaluates APP’s progress on its Forest Conservation Policy, which commits the company to exclude fiber sourced from logging of natural forests and conversion of peatlands, and requires it to obtain Free, Prior Informed Consent from local communities in developing new plantations.
(09/11/2013) In what may be an unprecedented move in the Indonesian forestry sector, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has announced two breaches of its moratorium on natural forest clearance. In a report published Wednesday, APP said an audit of its operations by The Forest Trust, the NGO charged with implementing the forestry giant’s forest conservation policy, turned up two incidents of forest clearance that has taken place since the logging ban took effect in February 2013.
(04/29/2013) In February, Asia Pulp & Paper, one the world’s largest paper producers, announced a forest conservation policy that would effectively exclude fiber sourced through conversion of rainforests and peatlands. The announcement however was met by skepticism by many in the environmental movement due to APP’s failures to abide by previous commitments to avoid rainforest logging.
(02/12/2013) After Indonesian paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper’s announcement last week that it will no longer source fiber produced from destruction of tropical rainforests, environmental groups are now urging Indonesia’s other major paper company to make a similar commitment. On Tuesday, WWF echoed Greenpeace’s call for Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain. Like APP, APRIL has been linked to large-scale conversion of Sumatra’s endangered rainforests for industrial tree plantations to produce pulp and paper.
(02/05/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper, a forestry giant that has been widely criticized for its role in driving deforestation and contributing to social conflict in Indonesia, today announced a zero deforestation policy that could have a dramatic impact on efforts to slow the Southeast Asian nation’s high rate of deforestation. The policy, which went into effect February 1, is ambitious enough that one of APP’s most vocal critics and agitators, Greenpeace, will suspend its highly-damaging campaign against the paper giant. The campaign against APP has cost the paper giant tens of millions of dollars in lost business since 2009. The new policy targets several of the major criticisms against APP, including deforestation, degradation of high carbon peatlands, conservation of critical wildlife habitat, and social conflict with local communities.