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New investigation finds suspect clearing operations of natural forest in Indonesia

The coalition Eyes on the Forest (EoF), based on the ground in Indonesia, has published a new Investigative Report on two Asia Pulp & Paper (APP)/Sinar Mas Group (SMG) wood suppliers who conducted natural forest clearance in Kerumutan peat forest, Sumatra. These forests are some of the last refuges for the endangered Sumatran elephant and the critically endangered Sumatran tiger. If forest clearing isn't halted, both could become locally extinct in a few years' time. Forest loss is the single biggest threat to Sumatra’s elephants. Most of Sumatra’s decline of local elephant herds, from 1400 to less than 200, happened where large areas of forest were lost or severely fragmented.

The Investigative Report found that natural forest clearance operations by both APP-affiliated companies are legally questionable based upon existing laws and regulations as they cleared natural forest with dense canopy cover which is not allowed to be converted into plantations, and both companies cleared natural forest on peat with a depth of more than 3 meters deep,   which is not allowed to be converted into plantations.

The two companies, PT Bina Duta Laksana and PT Mutiara Sabuk Khatulistiwa, also have majority of the concessions overlaps with national Protected Area and some of the concessions overlaps with provincial Protected Areas (RTRWP). The natural forest clearance and plantation development in these concessions do not provide any benefit for the local communities, moreover they create social-economic conflicts as villagers suffer economic losses.

These forest clearance operations also significantly contribute to global climate change, the EoF analysis of satellite imagery found that by 2005, the majority of both concessions were still covered by quite dense canopy natural forest. However, by 2008, at least 9,678 ha and 6,560 ha of natural forest was lost respectively. Future forest clearance in Sumatra is planned in areas with deep peat, some more than 20 meters deep, which houses vast quantities of carbon that will be emitted as it is disturbed. The draining of peatlands and associated peat fires have been one of the drivers that made Indonesia the third-largest emitter of CO2 in the world, behind only the United States and China.

The EoF coalition is calling on the two companies and APP/SMG to immediately stop all further clearance of natural forest in their concessions due to the questionable legality of their activities, social conflicts, threat to critically endangered Sumatran tigers and other High Conservation Values, and its potential negative impacts on the climate.

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