The Palm Scribe

One Million Hectares of Palm Oil Plantations Found in Primary Forests and Peatland

From Right to left: Teguh Surya from Madani, Achmad Surambo fromSawit Watch dan Arie Rompas from Greenpeace

The Sustainable Madani Foundation said that it has found more than one million hectares of palm oil plantation in 24 provinces located in primary natural forest and priority peatland for restoration, and called on the government to urgently deal with this issue.

“A review of the permits on this one million hectares of palm oil plantation in primary forest and peat areas needs to be urgently conducted because this will be key to achieving the Indonesian climate commitment, and as a form of the government’s consistency in improving the management of forests and land,” Muhammad Teguh Surya, Executive Director of Sustainable Madani Foundation said during a media discussion on Tuesday (10/9).

Madani said in a release, that it had conducted a spatial analysis on overlapping permits in the area covered by the XVth revision of the Indicative Map on Postponement of New Permits (PIPPIB Revisi XV) and found  1,001,474.07 hectares of palm oil plantations owned by 724 companies located in primary forests and peatland in 24 provinces.

The Madani analysis showed a total of 384 companies had 540,822 hectares of palm oil plantation in peatland areas, 102 had 237,928 hectares in primary forests while 238 had 222,723 hectares in primary forests. Almost half or 333 companies, accounting for 506,333 hectares of palm oil plantations were in seven provinces that were designated as a priority for peatland restoration.

The analysis was conducted to encourage the optimization of the policy related to the palm oil moratorium, which along with the policy on halting the issuance of new concessions in primary forest and peatland, constituted the two positive steps taken by the government in improving the management of forests and land.

Previously, the National Movement for Saving Natural Resources (GNPSDA) of the Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK) had also said that it had found 3.47 million hectares of palm oil companies located in forests.

“Regarding the existence of the one million hectares of palm oil plantations in primary forest and peat areas, this constitutes a challenge for the working team on the Palm Oil Moratorium, to overcome it and seek the best solution,” said Achmad Surambo, Deputy Director of Sawit Watch, at the same media discussion.

Achmad said that in the past one year, the working team on the palm oil moratorium was still conducting preparations of its baseline data. Meanwhile, there were already a lot of data in the hands of ministries and related government institutions.

“Data consolidations that takes so much time shows that there is yet not good coordination existing between ministries and government institutions. It is really deplorable that one year was just spent to prepare the data, considering that the presidential instruction (Inpres) on palm oil moratorium is only valid for three years,” Achmad said.

In Greenpeace’s analysis, there were still some 33.3 million hectares of primary forest coverage, as well as 6.5 million hectares of peatland that were situated outside the moratorium map and outside any protected forests or conservation areas that were yet unprotected. Even the areas covered by the moratorium were still threatened by the existence of corporate concessions, including for palm oil plantations.

“One million hectares of palm oil concessions in primary forests and peatland presents a real test on how a permanent moratorium would be implemented. By revoking those permits, the government would should its seriousness in protecting the remaining forests and peatland, and that is not only mere propaganda,” said Arie Rompas, Forest Campaigner Team Leader for Greenpeace Indonesia.

The government has already taken out a total of 4.5 million hectares from areas designated as primary forests and peatland under the moratorium on forests and 1.6 million hectares of that had been issued with permits for palm oil, and pulp plantations, logging, and mining. If those permits are not reevaluated and withdrawn, the same is feared would happen to the one million hectares of palm oil plantations in primary forests and peatland, he said.

On September 19, 2018, President Joko Widodo issued Presidential Instruction Number 8/2-18 on the Postponement and Evaluation of Permits and the Enhancement of productivity of Palm Oil plantations. On August 5, 2019, he also issued another Presidential Instruction, on New permits and Improvement in the Management of Primary Natural Forests and Peatland.

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