Three top officials from the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry have caught red-handed the first perpetrator of peat violations since the issuance of a new package of regulations aimed at peat protection. These violations involved a case of new canal development.
In early December last year, President Joko Widodo signed a revised government regulation on peat protection, which was then followed by the release of a set of ministerial regulations to follow up on the President’s signature regulation in February this year.
The first peat violations to be uncovered since the new peat regulations took effect were committed in the pulpwood concession of PT SPM, a company belonging to paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), in early March this year. The APP company’s concession is located in the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu (GSK-BB) landscape in Sumatra’s Riau province.
The photos below depict the development of the new canals, the perpetrators of which were caught red-handed by the top ministry officials.
“This new canal construction is a flagrant violation of the newly-revised government regulation (on peat protection),” M.R. Karliansyah, the Ministry’s Director General of Pollution and Environmental Damage Control, said spontaneously upon seeing in person, at the site, exactly how the new canals had been constructed by the company’s operators (Mar 3).
Director General Karliansyah added that the peat violations committed by this company would certainly complicate the government’s position, and would inevitably result in sanctions being imposed on the company.
He was quick to denounce the actions of the company. “The facts are clear. The company has been caught red-handed carrying out peat violations. It’s impossible to defend companies like this which commit peat violations as if they don’t know of the new peat regulations.”
This finding that PT SPM had engaged in peat violations by constructing new canals led the Ministry’s Law Enforcement Director General Dr Rasio “Roy” Ridho Sani, on behalf of the Environment and Forestry Minister, to sign off on the imposition of sanctions against the company, around a week after it was caught in the act.
These sanctions include a provision forcing the company to restore the new canals it has developed.
At the concession location (Mar 3), Roy expressed his annoyance at the actions of the APP company. “There is a big question mark as to why big companies like PT SPM continue to breach the new peat regulations.”
“How dare they infringe the revised government regulation (on peat protection) which bears the President’s own signature,” Roy – who recently received his Doctorate from the University of Indonesia – berated.
Don’t underestimate President’s orders
In the meantime, Professor San Afri Awang, the Ministry’s Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance Director General, took the opportunity while at the concession location to urge all relevant companies to properly respect President Joko Widodo’s instructions.
Failure to do so, he explained, would mean that companies committing fire-causing peat violations this year could expect to have their permits revoked.
“Don’t blame the ministry if your concession permit gets revoked. Our President has said on a number of occasions that there is no room for compromise when it comes to law enforcement efforts against fire-causing peat violations,” Professor San Afri, dressed in blue during the inspection, stressed.
“In the months ahead, fire-causing peat violations will no longer merely result in warnings or sanctions. Instead the concession permits of those involved will be immediately revoked. This is the President’s order. We all have to respect and apply it,” cautioned the University of Gadjah Mada Professor.
In APP’s four-yearly Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) report, the giant corporation claimed that the implementation of its FCP remains on the right path.
However, the fact that top forestry authorities discovered peat violations – in the form of new canal construction – being committed by one of its companies in the GSK-BB landscape makes this claim misleading and renders it irrelevant.