In response to the devastating fires and orangutan tragedy currently unfolding in the Tripa Peat Swamps, The Coalition Team to Save the Tripa Swamps (TKPRT), their partners, and supporters around the world have launched a global online petition asking that Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyo, support legal action against those accountable for the illegal destruction of the UNEP/UNESCO recognized and legally protected Tripa peat swamp forests of Aceh, Indonesia.
It has been widely reported that well over a hundred orangutans have perished in the fires, and those numbers may be much higher.
The petition asks for enforcement of the laws protecting the Tripa Peat Swamp and its orangutan population. Indonesia’s ability to enforce its national laws is in serious question, leading to increasing public scrutiny.
A legal case is currently ongoing in the administrative court in Banda Aceh, contesting the legality of a plantation concession permit issued to PT. Kallista Alam by the then Governor of Aceh, as it contravenes the National Spatial Plan issued in 2008, in which the entire Leuser Ecosystem, of which Tripa is an integral part, is a designated National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection.
The final ruling in the case is due on April 3rd, and urgent attention needs to given to the petition now as that deadline approaches.
Hadi Daryanto, secretary-general of the Ministry of Forestry, told the Jakarta Post that this permit should not have been issued under the terms of a moratorium on new permits in primary forests and peatlands, issued by President Yudhoyono in May 2011.
“It’s clearly a violation because the area in question is a peat forest,” said Daryanto. “On the moratorium map it’s clearly marked out as protected, but in the revision that followed, it was somehow excluded. That exclusion in itself is also a violation because it occurred after the moratorium went into effect.”
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono himself stated in 2011 that he would “dedicate the last three years of my term as President to deliver enduring results that will sustain and enhance the environment and forests of Indonesia”.
A failure of Indonesia’s legal system in such an obviously clear-cut case would represent a major global embarrassment for the country, not to mention its international partners, in its failure to fulfill its commitment to reducing carbon emissions.
All last week numerous huge fires, deliberately and illegally lit by oil palm companies, swept through a significant area of the remaining peat swamp forests of Tripa. Clearing peatlands using fire is highly illegal. Clearing forests containing endangered species also contravenes the Indonesian palm oil industry’s own legally required standards (ISPO) and unless immediate action is taken to halt and reverse the current wave of illegal destruction, Tripa’s population of the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), could be extinct in a matter of months, even weeks.
The online petition can be found at:
The Orangutan Conservancy strongly supports this effort to save the orangutans in Tripa and the entire Leuser ecosystem.
This report was edited by Tom Mills
photo courtesy of Reuters