Peatland agency chief presses APP for maps of concessions

Canal blocking on concession land belonging to an APP supplier in the Kerumutan province, Riau. Canal blocking prevents peatland from drying out and igniting. Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency says it is still waiting for the paper giant to sub
Canal blocking on concession land belonging to an APP supplier in the Kerumutan province, Riau. Canal blocking prevents peatland from drying out and igniting. Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency says it is still waiting for the paper giant to submit information on its concession lands.PHOTO: ASIA PULP AND PAPER

It is the only one of 7 firms yet to share data, says Peatland Restoration Agency

Indonesia is piling the pressure on Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) to hand over information relating to its concession lands, many of which are on highly flammable peatland.

Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) chief Nazir Foead told The Straits Times yesterday that he had asked seven companies to share maps of their concessions and all have complied except APP.

"The data has not been shared with our agency even though in a face-to-face meeting with us a few months ago, APP agreed unconditionally to share the data," he said.

When asked if APP had submitted its maps as it had claimed in a statement released on Wednesday, he said: "That is not true."

Mr Nazir had also disputed the veracity of the same statement that said APP had submitted the maps and other data to the Environment and Forestry Ministry last month, according to another report.

When contacted yesterday afternoon, an APP spokesman referred to Wednesday's press statement and added that "APP will support all initiatives to protect forests and peatlands in Indonesia".

Late last night, however, Mr Nazir told The Straits Times that APP has agreed to share its peatland data with the BRG next week.

The agency was set up by President Joko Widodo in January, following last year's record haze crisis, to restore 2.7 million ha of peatland in seven provinces by 2020.

Mr Nazir said the mapping of concession areas over peatland will allow the BRG to identify priority restoration areas as well as land for conservation or cultivation.

He said while he does not expect the agency's work to be delayed by the lack of maps from APP, having a complete set of such data would "speed up" the mapping exercise.

Mr Nazir had said earlier in the week that Indonesia's largest pulp and paper company had repeatedly rejected his agency's request for the company to submit its concession maps.

"Many companies submitted their data, but one company has been uncooperative and appears to not be serious. I'll just disclose the name so it is aware of its faults. It's APP," Mr Nazir was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post website on Wednesday morning.

The BRG said 87 per cent of damaged peatland in Indonesia is located in concession areas where 531 plantation companies operate.

These include, among others, 217 palm oil companies across 589,000ha of land in restoration areas, and 109 pulp and paper companies over 609,000ha of land.

Local pulpwood plantation company Bumi Mekar Hijau, which supplies the Sinar Mas Group, has to restore some 95,000ha of damaged peatland in its concessions, said a BRG official, adding that it is the largest area operated by one firm.

Several plantation firms in Indonesia are also under investigation by Singapore authorities despite protests from some officials in Jakarta.

Bloomberg yesterday reported that Singapore is prepared to prosecute any Indonesian firm behind fires that led to the haze last year.

The authorities in Singapore have ordered six APP suppliers to provide information on how they plan to prevent fires on their land, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli told Bloomberg.

"We are standing on high moral ground," he said. "We have the support of the international community. We are not doing anything criminal nor wrong. We are just asking for the companies and the directors to own up and be accountable for what they've done."

The six companies face fines of up to S$100,000 a day for each day of fire, the minister added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline 'Peatland agency chief presses APP for maps of concessions'. Print Edition | Subscribe