Indonesia and Norway signed last month billion dollars agrement aimed to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, but two paper companyes could undermine the agreement: according to a report released by Eyes on the Forest, Shanghai- based Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Singapore-based APRIL, pulped five percent of the remaining natural forest in Sumatra's Riau Province.
An analysis of 2009's annual cutting licenses (RKT) shows that these licenses were issued for the extraction of high timber volumes per hectare. Most of the clearance of these high quality forests occurred on peat soil more than three meters deep in violation of existing law. Draining of peat soil and clearing of natural forests has been the main source of Indonesia's huge greenhouse gas emissions.
"APP and APRIL are undermining our President's commitment to reduce the country's emissions by up to 41 percent. We call on APP and APRIL to immediately stop using any timber associated with the conversion of tropical rainforest and draining of peatlands" said Ian Kosasih of WWF Indonesia. Both companies have advertised for years that they would no longer use natural forest fiber for their pulp production by 2009. But Eyes on the Forest estimates that the 2009 permits they acquired to clear natural forest in Riau alone may represent up to 40% and 84% of the raw material needs of APP's and APR's Riau pulp mills, respectively.
"Customers should take the intensive green washing campaigns by both companies exactly for what they are, expensive PR stunts designed to fool the world he added, said Santo Kurniawan, coordinator of Jikalahari, an NGO network in Riau.
In his agreement with Norway, the President committed to institute a two year moratorium on all new concessions for conversion of peat and natural forest from January 2011. Yet immediately following the commitment, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry issued new permits to drain deep peat and clear natural forest in Riau. The new licenses may represent up to 29% and 50% of APP's and APRIL's Riau mill's raw material needs. APP and APRIL seem to be in a great hurry to clear Riau's remaining forests before the moratorium starts, putting the President into a very embarrassing position.
It appears the announcement of the moratorium has been a signal to clear even more forests even faster.
"APP and APRIL affiliated companies continue to clear natural forests and drain deep peat while issues of license legality and corruption are being investigated by Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission and Presidential task forces - said Hariansyah Usman of Walhi Riau - We urge our government to put on hold all existing licenses and investigate their legality and sustainability. Any forest loss resulting from the irregular issuance of a license is irrevertable and thus has to be avoided."
The Eyes on the Forest investigation found irrefutable photographic evidence of the operations by APP and APRIL in 2009 and early 2010, showing that the two companies have cleared tropical rainforest and drained peat soils, destroyed high conservation values areas, protected peatlands, the outer isles of the province, communities' livelihoods and the habitats of endangered species.
APP has been draining peat and clearing natural forests in Riau's UNESCO Biosphere Reserve while advertising globally its full support for the reserve. APP has been clearing crucial habitats of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger increasing the often deadly conflicts between people and tigers, while widely advertising its contribution to tiger conservation in the same area in this Year of the Tiger. APP has been clearing High Conservation Value Forests that it had publicly committed to protect, while promoting its commitment to protect high conservation value forests in its PR campaigns.
APRIL too has been clearing High Conservation Value Forests in deep peat areas, which WWF had delineated and the company had agreed to protect. By doing so APRIL broke the agreement with its international auditor, Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood Program, who suspended the company's FSC Controlled Wood certificate.