Active clearance of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province taken 05/20/2014. PT RAPP is a subsidiary of APRIL, the pulp & paper division of the Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Group, a conglomerate owned by Singapore-based businessman Sukanto Tanoto. On 28 January 2014, APRIL announced that it intends to continue to use rainforest logs until at least 2020. All photos © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Indonesian logging giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) is continuing to destroy endangered rainforests on Sumatra despite a high profile commitment to clean up its operations, reveal aerial photos captured by Greenpeace last month.
The pictures show excavators leveling forests on carbon-dense peatlands on Pulau Padang, an island where APRIL claims to be restoring forest. Visible in the images are canals dug to drain peatlands to make them suitable for industrial acacia plantations.
The photos clearly show APRIL’s subsidiary PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) violating the spirit of APRIL’s forest conservation policy, which commits the company to protecting and restoring high conservation value forests and high carbon stock areas. Pulau Padang’s peatlands store massive amounts of carbon while maintaining the structural integrity of the low-lying island and providing a home for tropical forest species, including endangered birds and mammals.
An excavator piles natural forest logs at a log pond inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province located at 1°0’51″N 102°19’50″E. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Recent large-scale clearance of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang
APRIL announced its conservation policy in January after long-standing criticism from environmentalists for its forest management practices, which include large-scale conversion of rainforests for industrial plantations. The policy was immediately condemned by Greenpeace and other groups as falling far short of the commitment launched a year earlier by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), APRIL’s biggest competitor. Activists said the policy was full of loopholes and allowed the company to continue pulping rainforests and peatlands for another five years.
Now, less than four months after the commitment, activists have captured damaging evidence of business-as-usual practices from APRIL, says Greenpeace campaigner Zulfahmi.
“APRIL’s commitments mean nothing,” Zulfahmi told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s just confirmation that they still intend to destroy forests until 2019.”
But APRIL, which claims it is the victim of a smear campaign and that its commitment is greener than those of its competitors, says the forest destruction is consistent with its pledge.
“We are currently developing our last new plantation in an area of Pulau Padang licensed by the Indonesian government,” an APRIL spokesman told The Sydney Morning Herald. “Our policy mandates that the work will be completed by December . . . So if one of your questions is ‘are you violating your own policy?’, the answer is ‘no’.”‘
“[The] Enhanced Policy exceeds any commitment we have ever made,” a presentation from APRIL states. “[It] takes APRIL’s commitments to the next level – environment, community and business.”
APRIL is currently working with Fauna and Flora International (FFI) on a forest protection project in the neighboring Kampar Peninsula. A tentative agreement to work with WWF fell through last month when an investigation by the conservation group discovered recent peatlands destruction within an APRIL concession in Indonesian Borneo.
Canal construction through peatland forest
Active clearance of peatland forest
Excavators beside a canal cutting through recently deforested peatland inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang
An excavator piles natural forest logs at a log pond
Excavator piles natural forest logs
Excavators beside a canal cutting through recently deforested peatland
Active clearance of peatland forest. All photos © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Editor’s note: APRIL provided the following comment after this story was published
APRIL is completing development of a government-licensed plantation on Pulau Padang. The operations are on land outside of High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) as identified through an HCV assessment using the Indonesian HCV took kit. This is in line with APRIL’s Sustainable Forest Management Policy. Operations on Pulau Padang have resumed following a 15-month voluntary moratorium by APRIL to accommodate public consultation with local communities and the Ministry of Forestry. As a result of the consultations, 7,120 hectares of land was removed from APRIL’s original concession. This reduced the concession boundary by more than 17%, from 41,205 hectares to 34,085 hectares. The protected HCVF area in Pulau Padang is 8,223 hectares. Land set aside for the community and infrastructure amounts to another 4,931 hectares. APRIL has voluntarily agreed to open an additional 1,500 hectares of land, originally identified as operable, to further HCV assessment. No operations are permitted on that land until an assessment is completed. Please note that the total land APRIL is setting aside for conservation and community clearly exceeds legal requirement, and we are doing this to comply with our Sustainable Forest Management Policy.