A field team from the Coalition to Save Tripa Peat Swamp Forest visit in Indonesia’s Tripa Peat Forest has unearthed alarming evidence of fires continuing to be lit and burn in the highly threatened Tripa Peat Forest despite assurances from the Indonesian central government that ‘triple track’ legal action was underway and a small area of the Peat Forest had returned to the moratorium map central to the multi-billion agreement between Indonesia and Norway to reduce carbon emission from burning the carbon dense Peat Forests.
Satellite information led the focus of the team to the eastern region in the 60,000 hectare Tripa Peat Forest, where fire hot-spot alerts had recorded another increase in burning activity. Upon entering the area the ground team discovered fresh burns scars, and smouldering ashes from recently lit fires, and new fires being lit around 6:30pm yesterday evening.
“This is blatantly breaching Indonesian law” Said Dr Ian Singleton, Conservation director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP). “Despite the joint investigation currently taking place by the Ministry of Environment and the National Police, in areas right across Tripa, and indeed Indonesia, the National Laws continue to be flaunted.
“While a small area of Tripa has been returned to the moratorium map, there are five palm oil concessions in Tripa operating illegally inside the protected Leuser Ecosystem, yet only two of them are being investigated, and even in these destruction continues on the ground with drainage canals still drying the peat swamp.” Dedy Raith, Forest Campaigner for WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia explained, “The Ministry of Environment and National Police team needs to increase the scope to of the investigation to include all concessions and the full 60,000 hectares of Tripa.”
“The full path of the destruction of Tripa must be followed, to identify the responsible parties who allowed this to happen, and full legal prosecutions carried out. This is a very simple case. In August 2011 a permit was issued by the hand of former Aceh Governor Irwandi to palm oil company PT Kallista Alam to convert 1,605 hectares of protected peat forest into palm oil. The issuing of this permit very clearly breaches National Spatial planning law 26/2007, leaving both mentioned parties criminally liable. From the outset, the violation was clear for all to see. Pak Kuntoro has already labelled the concession illegal, return this small aspect of Tripa to REDD Moratorium map and demanded PT Kallista Alam restore any forest it has already damaged,” explained Kamaruddin, the Acehnese Lawyer representing the community of Tripa.
Sudariyono, the Indonesian Environmental Ministry’s head of law enforcement unit, recently said “We will investigate if the company have properly conducted an Amdal [environmental impact analysis] or has other environmental permits.”
“Yet, this investigation must include all companies operating inside the Tripa Peat Forests, protected by National Spatial Planning Law 26/2007. All companies in Tripa must be reviewed because each operation has indicated a degree of legal violation, which again is highlighted again by the fires burning today. To review all Amdal processes is simple, and standard legal procedure, and I believe should result in prosecution of all parties responsible for violation of Indonesia law,” Kamaruddin concluded.
“Tripa is an important part of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the world’s most important conservation areas, home to Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants, tigers and a whole host of other wildlife. There should be no permits and no destruction of this iconic and globally important area, it’s very clearly against Indonesian Law, it is protected by National Strategic Planning Law 26/2007, and Government Regulation 26/2008. Moratoriums may come and go, but it is National Spatial Planning that must be adhered to for the forests of Indonesia to have any chance of survival,” concluded Dr Singleton.