The Palm Scribe

Oil Palm Top Destroyer of Mangroves in North Sumatra

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Oil palm plantations were the top destroyer of mangrove forests in the Indonesian province of North Sumatra last year, an environmental activist said Monday (27/4).

Dana Prima Tarigan, Executive Director of the North Sumatra Chapter of Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi) said that in 2019 a total of 9,460 hectares of coastal mangrove forests were destroyed in North Sumatra alone.

“Forty-five percent, or 4,257 hectares were by plantations, 35 percent or 3311 hectares were fish farms and 20 percent were due to other activities,” Tarigan told The Palm Scribe in a short text message, precising that by plantations, he only meant oil palm plantations.

The estimates were reached from satellite images. The other activities included farming, sea abrasion, charcoal making and sand mining.

Walhi also had looked into the oil palm plantations on the eastern coast of North Sumatra and found out that the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry had only issued four licenses for large plantations for the said area.

“We are still investigating how come there are many oil palm plantations there,” Tarigan said.

Walhi data also showed that in 2018, protected and conservation areas along the eastern coast of North Sumatra totaled 47,499 hectares. The figure was 12,565 hectares or almost 21 percent less than the 60,064 hectares designated as protected and conservation areas on the eastern coast of North Sumatra under Forestry Ministry Decree Number 44 of 2005.

Data showed that the largest conversion of those protected and conservation areas took place in Labuhan Batu district, followed by the districts of Deli Serdang, Batubara and Asahan.

Tarigan said that the land conversion took place after the government converted the status of the land from protected or conservation land into area for other uses (APL).

“The North Sumatra Chapter of Walhi is questioning the status of the areas that have been downgraded to areas for other uses,” Tarigan said.

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