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Korean company bans forest clearing for Indonesian palm oil concessions

A pile of wood that has been prepared to be burned in land controlled by Korindo in Papua. Photo courtesy of Mighty Earth

A pile of wood that has been prepared to be burned in land controlled by Korindo in Papua. Photo courtesy of Mighty Earth

  • Korindo came under scrutiny last year when U.S.-based environmental group Mighty Earth published a damning report on their practice of burning to clear land.
  • The report “Burning Paradise” was published on September 1, 2016 and alleged that Korindo had caused 30,000 hectares of deforestation and an estimated 894 fire hotspots since 2013.
  • The illegal, yet commonly-used practice of companies burning land to clear it, leads to an annual haze from forest and peatland fires.

Korean company Korindo has said they will stop clearing forest for palm oil concessions until sustainability assessments can be made. The company has promised to conduct an assessment of the 75,000 hectares of remaining forests on their palm oil concessions in Indonesian Papua.

U.S.-based environmental group Mighty Earth said in a statement on January 10 that they and their partners will be meeting with Korindo at the end of the month in the hopes that the company will agree to use the High Carbon Stock Approach methodology (HCSA) in its assessments.

HCSA is regarded as the industry standard methodology for distinguishing forest areas from degraded land. In order to follow the HCSA standard, Korindo must use credible assessors, make assessments available to the public, and seek independent verification of compliance.

Korindo’s moratorium and assessment comes just a few months after Mighty Earth and its partners released the report “Burning Paradise” on September 1, 2016. It alleged that Korindo had caused 30,000 hectares of deforestation and an estimated 894 fire hotspots since 2013, and led to swift investigations by the Indonesian government.

According to the report, Korindo has been scrutinized for their practices for some time. Data published by Earthsight in November 2015 showed fires burning in areas that were going through conversion for oil palm in two locations owned by Korindo. Also in 2015, the company received a three-month permit suspension for fires at an industrial timber concession in Indonesian Borneo. Palm oil traders Wilmar and Musim Mas stopped sourcing from Korindo due to violations of their No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) policies.

It is illegal for companies in Indonesia to burn land to clear it, but it is still a common practice. The method fuels annual forest and peatland fires that fill the air in the region with a thick, choking haze. This haze affects other parts of Southeast Asia and has led to national health emergencies and a spike in greenhouse gas emissions. Fires were particularly bad in 2015, spurring a haze crisis that research indicates may have contributed to the premature deaths of around 100,000 people.

The government has also brought criminal and civil charges against several companies for causing fires.