Friday, 31 August 2007

Palm Oil Not The Cause For Shrinking Number Of Orang Utans, Says GAPKI

COMMENT: The scandal of oil palm companies tearing down rainforests and killing orangutans is clearly 'An Inconvenient Truth' for some.

Palm Oil Not The Cause For Shrinking Number Of Orang Utans, Says GAPKI

By Mahanum Abdul Aziz

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 (Bernama) -- Not all environment issues and related problems like the shrinking number of orang utans in Indonesia can be blamed on the expansion of oil palm plantations in the country, says an industry member.

"When the haze occurs, the oil palm industry is blamed. When an orang utan is killed, the industry is blamed. But that is not entirely true," said Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) executive chairman Derom Bangun.

In Indonesia the orang utans are found only in the northern part of Sumatra and Kalimantan and about 400,000 hectares of areas in Tanjung Puting National Park has been allocated for the habitat of orang utan.

It is not correct for people to say with that any expansion in oil palm plantations will affect the orang utan, he said.

"The decreasing number of the orang utan population is not all associated with oil palm expansion," he told Bernama at the last day of the International Palm Oil Congress (PIPOC 2007) here, Thursday.

He cited activities such as illegal smuggling as some of the causes.

As for the haze problem caused by open burning, Bangun said dry weather also contributed to forest fires.

Bangun said the Indonesian government has implemented several laws for the conservation of the country's forest and wildlife.

"The government has done a lot by promoting different laws on forestry and environment, including conservation of endangered species," he said.

Lately, wildlife conservation groups have claimed that native species such as the orang utan and Sumatra rhinos are being treatened by the clearing of forests for oil palm expansion in Indonesia and Malaysia.


Indonesian palm oil boom threatens orangutan, environment

Indonesian palm oil boom threatens orangutan, environment
Jakarta Post 31st August 2007

TUMBANG KULING (AP): Naingolan shunts the excavator into high gear and tears into a patch of smoldering forest on Borneo island, clearing the way for yet another palm oil plantation thatIndonesia hopes will tap into a surge in global demand for biofuels.

Despite government claims pristine jungles are escaping the effects of the "green solution" to the energy crunch, the boom is threatening the survival of animals like the endangered orangutan and turning the country into a major global warming contributor, environmentalists say.

The fruits of Naingolan's labor in one corner of Borneo are plain to see: a wasteland of churned up peat and trees stretching to the horizon with freshly dug-in palm plants dotting every meter. Behind him, smoke from illegal scrub-clearing fires clouds the sky.

Palm oil plantations have long been a staple of the economies of tropical Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia. Oil made from the red, spiky apple-sized fruit is used to make a vast range of products, from soap to chocolate to lipstick.

But concern over pollution from the burning of fossil fuels in Europe and the United States has led to a new use for the oil - mixing it with diesel to make a cleaner burning and cheaper fuel to put in cars.

The EU parliament this year announced a renewed push to meet sustainable energy targets, including mandating using biofuels to supply at least 10 percent of transport fuel needs by 2020.

Encouraged by government tax breaks, many of Indonesia's largest conglomerates as well as foreign companies are investing millions in expanding plantations and refining facilities on Borneo, which has one of the richest ecosystems in the world and is one of the only remaining homes of the orangutans.

Conservationists working to preserve the 20,000 great apes say palm oil poses the biggest threat. Rehabilitation centers are overflowing with the animals rescued from plantations, many with wounds inflicted by workers, they say.

"Scientifically, I think the population is doomed, but emotionally I want to feel like there is still hope," said Raffaella Commitante, a primatologist at a center in east Kalimantan. "Orangutans spend 80 to 90 percent of their time in trees. If you take away the trees, they cannot move."

Deforestation in tropical countries accounts for roughly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Bank, because trees release carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas, when they are destroyed.

Indonesia is the third-highest emitter of carbon dioxide behind China and the United States, largely because much of the palm oil on Borneo is planted on carbon-rich peat land that must be drained first, releasing millions more tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

Demand for biofuel "could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for our remaining forests," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Hapsoro. "Trying to solve one environmental problem by wiping out Indonesian forests is senseless."

The government insists that palm oil is only being planted on land that was fully or partially deforested long ago, so called "degraded" land. They said local authorities were now getting tough on illegal loggers after years of working hand-in-hand with them.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

China Issues Rules for Logging Companies Overseas

China Issues Rules for Logging Companies Overseas

CHINA: August 30, 2007

BEIJING - China has issued guidelines for enterprises engaging in logging overseas, state media reported on Wednesday, following accusations that it is plundering the world's forests to meet booming demand for wood.

The guidelines, issued jointly by the State Forestry Administration and the Ministry of Commerce, aim to encourage forestry cultivation that highlights sustainability and bio-diversity. "The purpose of the move is to guide relevant enterprises to help the countries or regions that are faced with difficulties in forest restoration and to help improve the livelihood of local residents," Xinhua news agency quoted Jia Zhibang, head of the Forestry Administration, as saying.

Environment groups say China is at the heart of a global trade for lumber that it sells to markets in the United States and Europe, and that much of its plywood exports come from illegal logging. China accounted for more than half the log exports from Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Indonesia, British-based organisation Global Witness has said.

The new guidelines are meant as a basis for evaluating and supervising logging companies, Jia said, adding that China wants to make its enterprises more aware of environmental protection as they increasingly strike out abroad.


Palm oil mills dumping waste, minister promises action

Wednesday August 29, 2007

Palm oil mills dumping waste, minister promises action, Star newspaper, Malaysia


KOTA KINABALU: Some palm oil mill operators are allegedly dumping waste into Sabah rivers, prompting a pledge from a state minister to personally track down these "recalcitrants."

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjum said he intended to carry out surprise spot checks on such mills around the state.

"These checks would give me a better picture of what the actual situation is on the ground," he said Wednesday after a two-day trip to the east coast Kinabatangan district.

He said he came across a palm oil mill there discharging effluent into the tributary of the nation's second longest waterway.

"The water in the river stank. You don't need to be scientist to know that there was something wrong there," Masidi said.

He added that he had told the mill operator to "clean up his act" in six weeks or face action from the Department of Environment.

Masidi said he intended to begin the state-wide surprise checks after the upcoming Hari Raya celebrations. He said that while some palm oil mill operators in the state had complied with a ruling requiring them to treat their effluent as of June last year, others had not.

In this regard, Masidi said those flouting environmental regulations should expect to face "tougher days" in the future as the enforcement unit of the state Environmental Conservation Department (ECD) was being beefed with an additional 14 personnel.

Satellite photos confirm widespread logging on Umno’s land, Malaysia

COMMENT: This IS clearly yet another man-made environmental disaster linked to oil palm companies. So, let's see which household name international conservation NGO groups protest this and generally raise hell. It's worrying that not one such organisation is even quoted in this article - presumably the reporter could not think of a group who is actually doing anything on these issues in Malaysia

When published, this article was illsutrated with the satellite photos it mentions.

Satellite photos confirm widespread logging on Umno’s land, Malaysia
Steven Gan
Aug 7, 03 5:02am

Exclusive In the movie ‘Signs’, a Pennsylvanian family discovered huge crop circles on their cornfield, left there by aliens. Malaysia, too, has one such ‘sign’. This one, however, is the work of humans, and instead of circles, it is an oblong square. The ‘sign’ is revealed in satellite images obtained by malaysiakini of a virgin forest given to the ruling Umno party in Pahang that has been systematically logged over the past years.

What is left now is a huge oblique patch - about 60 sq km in size - visible from space. The bright green plot, as seen in the satellite photos, is what was once 10,000 acres of virgin peat swamp forest in southeast Pahang, which had been methodically clear-felled.

On paper, the Umno Pahang land should be about 40 sq km, but it appears to be closer to 60 sq km in the satellite images. Industry sources said this could be because loggers might have encroached into the neighbouring forest reserve and wiped out a large slice of the protected wetland. The images were taken by Landsat - a satellite launched by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) - from an altitude of approximately 700km.
Collaborating images were acquired from the French Space Agency’s Spot satellite, which orbits at around 800km up.

One close-up image shows the controversial Umno plot crisscrossed with straight lines which industry experts say are canals. These canals run deep into the forest and are used to transport the logs as building roads would be too costly.
Bulldozers tugged the felled logs into the canals, and from there the logs were drawn by barges to waiting trucks near the outskirts of the forest.
The close-up image also depicts bulldozer tracks, represented by faint fine lines branching out from the canals.

Ladang Umno
The Pahang government in 1998 - under then mentri besar Khalil Yaacob - gave the huge piece of land to the state Umno, a party led by the menteri besar himself.
Dubbed as Ladang Umno (Umno plantation) by those close to the industry, the forest near Nenasi - a town about 50km south of Pekan - was cleared ostensibly for oil palm plantation.

But today - with most, if not all, of the trees gone - there are no signs that the ruling political party is going ahead with its plantation plan.
Forestry consultant Lim Teck Wyn, who has 10 years of experience in the industry, told malaysiakini that Ladang Umno is not suitable for oil palm cultivation. The land, he said, is a peat swamp forest, most parts of which are under at least one metre of water.

Umno Pahang would need to drain the entire tract if it is to be made viable for oil palm cultivation. Lim, who has provided consultancy services to a major logging company in Pahang, said that draining such a vast plot will be a monumental task.
But even if Ladang Umno is indeed earmarked for oil palm plantation, the devastation of such a virgin forest is expected to draw criticism from the country’s major trading partners.

Some European countries have balked at purchasing Malaysia-produced palm oil because of allegations that the industry contributed to widespread deforestation.
Early this year, Primary Industries Minister Dr Lim Keng Yaik went to Europe on a mission to counter these allegations, and help countries there to "see the forest for the trees".

"We are the biggest palm oil exporter in the world with an established system in place," said the minister. "There is no need to clear forests and replace them with palm trees."

Dwindling wildlife
The Umno land is located in southeast Pahang’s permanent forest reserve, which is by far the largest and oldest virgin peat swamp forest in Asia.
Peat swamp forests are the country’s most biologically diverse and most threatened of wetland areas.

According to a United Nations Development Programme report, the southeast Pahang peat swamp forest is home to many of Malaysia’s endangered species - elephants, rhinos, tigers, clouded leopards and tapirs.

Altogether, 15 mammal, nine bird, three reptile and two tree species which have been categorised as ‘globally threatened’ can be found in the area.
"The clearance of the forest for plantation eliminates all original plant species and virtually all animal species. It is unlikely that displaced animals, other than a few large mammals, will be able to emigrate to surrounding areas. Most or all will die," said forestry expert Lim.

"Of those animals which are able to translocate to the adjacent forests, their survival rates will be low - the region already has a limited carrying capacity."
Peat swamp forests also act as carbon sinks and play an important role in regulating floods as well as providing water during droughts.

However, unsustainable logging and drainage would dry out top peat layers, making it prone to forest fires and causing a loss of biodiversity and water resources.
"In 1996, the Nenasi forest was declared an environmentally sensitive area in the Pekan district structural plan, and the area was also gazetted as a permanent forest reserve. The fact that such an area can be clear-fell points to severe shortcomings in the existing legal framework," said Lim.

Law suit
The Umno land is now the subject of a law suit filed by Kuantan-based logging company Seruan Gemilang Makmur (SGM), which was given the task to log the land three years ago.

The company recently sought RM31 million in compensation through the courts from Pahang Umno after the party failed to secure a licence from the state forestry department for SCM to complete clearing the land.
From the satellite photos, Ladang Umno was almost logged out by the time SGM was awarded the concession in 2000.

Industry expert Lim said that the initial clearing could be done by other logging companies after the land was approved in 1998.
"Clear-cutting is often done in stages. The first to go in will extract the best and biggest trees. The concession is later given to others for a second round of logging, who will pick up the leftovers. SCM appears to be one of these salvage loggers."

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when asked about the matter last week, said that state land could not be given to a political party, and vowed to investigate the matter.

Meanwhile, Pahang Mentri Besar Adnan Yaacob told reporters that the party was not involved in the botched logging deal with SGM.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Animal trafficking - a side to Malaysia most tourists do not see.

At the end of this article from Malaysia there is a mention
of a new 'Wildlife Act'. When this was first mentioned
about a year ago it made reference to the new act
including a ban on all entertainment shows using
wildlife. IF this happens, it will be little short
of a miracle. But, with luck it will, and therefore
cover (i.e. ban) the truly dreadful shows using
orangutans in Malaysian zoos. There is little doubt
that this was prompted by the tens of thousands
of postcards sent by concerned people from all
over the world.

Smuggled tortoises dying... during long wait
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz
Aug 25, 07 12:18pm

While the Wildlife Department haggles with officials of the Tanzanian government over the repatriation of smuggled leopard tortoises seized two months ago, about two dozens are believed to have died in custody.

The tortoises, categorised in the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (Cites) Appendix II, were intercepted on June 12 by POS Malaysia officials.

The officials were suspicious of the parcels - bearing the description ‘claypots’ - that originated from Tanzania.

According to a source, only about 50 of the 76 tortoises confiscated are still alive.

Contacted today, the department’s law and enforcement division principal assistant director Haidar Khan confirmed the death of several tortoises, but expressed uncertainty as to how many exactly have died.

He said the delay was due to the fact this is the first time the Tanzanian government is faced with such a request from Malaysia.

“We are still in negotiations with the Tanzanian authorities over the details of the (repatriation) exercise,” said Haidar.

“The Indian government was quick to arrange for the return of their tortoises because it has done so many times,” said Haidar referring to 385 Indian Star tortoises seized last April. They were eventually sent back to India on an Indian airlines flight.

Wildlife trafficking alarming.
While species on Cites Appendix I are strictly forbidden from being traded except for conservation or research purposes, Cites II species can be traded but under strictly-controlled provisions.

Wildlife officials have said that criminal gangs were using Malaysia as a hub for exporting millions of ringgit worth of wildlife for the Chinese market.

Trafficking of wildlife is said to have hit alarming levels in Malaysia, which has also played the role of source and consumer.

While smugglers of species protected by national laws can be slapped with fines and jail sentences, no action can yet be taken against anyone guilty of smuggling partially-protected species cited under Cites due to the lack of legal provisions in the current Wildlife Protection Act.

The drafting of the new Wildlife Protection and Conservation Act, which would fill the loopholes and contain harsher punishments for infringements of wildlife laws, are said to be in the final stages of preparations.

IJM Plantations to boost oil palm estates in Indonesia-New Straits Times, Malaysia

Further evidence, if ever it was needed, of Malaysian companies
hunger for more rainforests in Indonesia.

Do we stand by and watch this happen before our very eyes?
Whilst various international meetings are being held, it is business as
usual for these companies. By the time, if indeed it ever happens, any
internationally binding agreement is ever reached, let alone enforced
on the ground in Indonesia, it will be too late for thousands of orangutans
and countless other species, not forgetting millions irreplaceable of trees.

Sad, so very sad.

IJM Plantations to boost oil palm estates in Indonesia-New Straits Times, Malaysia
By Zaidi Isham Ismail
August 28 2007

IJM Plantations Bhd plans to spend RM250 million over the next five to six years to boost its estates by a quarter in Indonesia and carry out more cultivating activities.

The plantation arm of IJM Corp Bhd, a construction and property group, wants to enlarge its estates to 40,000ha and plant more oil palm trees. It now owns 32,000ha oil palm estates in east Kalimantan, Indonesia.

IJM managing director and chief executive officer Velayuthan Tan Kim Song said the company already has a 4,000ha oil palm nursery which it expects to start producing by the first quarter of next year.

"Indonesia is a good place to expand due to better yields, cheap labour, good logistics, abundant rainfall and good land terrain and close to our home operations in Sabah.

"We would like to acquire new oil palm land in Sabah but there's none available ... prime oil palm land is already scarce," Tan said after the company's annual general meeting in Selangor yesterday.

IJM Plantations is one of the country's smallest planters that is strong in Sabah with almost 30,000ha of estates.

Tan said future prospects for the company look good as crude palm oil (CPO) prices are expected to hover between RM2,000 and RM2,200 a tonne in 2008 due to flood problems in Europe and the US as well as crop failures in South America.

On its plan to build a palm oil-based biodiesel plant, Tan said the plan is still on despite concerns of high CPO prices at the moment. CPO is the feedstock to make biodiesel.

"We look at investment in the long term and biodiesel is still a favourable business to go in," said Tan.

He said the 90,000-tonne-a-year biodiesel plant in Sabah is built on a modular basis, of which the initial 30,000 tonnes will be operational by the second half of 2008. It will be fully operational by 2009.

Tan said IJM Plantations is also keeping its options open on merger and acquisition initiatives.

He added that the company has not set any dividend policy and will pay them out accordingly. It paid a dividend of nine and seven per cent (less 28 per cent tax) in 2006 and 2005 respectively.


Sarawak Plantation to expand palm oil acreage in Kalimantan

August 28 2007


SARAWAK Plantation Bhd, a main board plantation company, plans to secure between 30,000 and 50,000 hectares in Kalimantan, Indonesia, in the next three years to expand its palm oil acreage.

The company, which has about 27,000ha, is already in talks with the Indonesian government.

“We will identify more land outside and inside Sarawak to expand our palm oil plantations,” group managing director, Mohamad Bolhair Reduan, told reporters after the company’s listing on Bursa Malaysia today.

Mohamad Bolhair said the identified land in Kalimantan was suitable for palm oil plantations.

Sarawak Plantation is mainly involved in developing, cultivating and managing oil palm plantation on a large scale and milling of fresh fruit bunches.

The company’s shares opened at RM3.40 for a premium of 40 sen over its offer price of RM3.00 with 6,913 lots traded. It eased to RM3.14 after more than an hour of trade.

“We hit RM3.40 at the opening bell and it then consolidated. I think it is a good start. We are not worried about the immediate term but more concern about the long-term development of the price,” he said.

The company was incorporated on October 28, 1997 as the vehicle company for the privatisation of Sarawak Land Development Board’s assets.

Upon listing, the Sarawak State Government owns 38 per cent in the company through State Financial Secretary Inc, Yayasan Sarawak, Yayasan Budaya Melayu Sarawak and Dayak Cultural Foundation.

Another substantial shareholder is Cermat Ceria Sdn Bhd, which owns 37 per cent.

The company registered RM142 million in revenue and RM63 million in net profit last year. — Bernama

Monday, 27 August 2007

Peat bog destruction highlights major flaw in Kyoto Protocol

Behind the News by Tom Bell
Aug 27, 2007

Peat bog destruction highlights major flaw in Kyoto Protocol

The destruction of peat bogs in Indonesia, partly to grow supposedly "green" biofuels, releases more carbon dioxide every year than India or Russia and three times as much as Germany.
During the summer dry season, when fires lit to clear the jungle for palm oil plantations sweep the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, the peat bogs can burn for months.

According to recent research by Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, "the emissions in 1997 alone", which was a particularly bad year, "were estimated to have reached 40 per cent of global CO2 emissions".

When the destruction of peat bogs is taken into account, Indonesia rises from 21st position to become the world's third-worst greenhouse gas polluter.

As the dry season gets under way, environmentalists in Central Borneo are waiting to see how bad this year will be. Last year, smoke covered much of Indonesia and Malaysia.

In Central Borneo "it was impossible to see from one side of the road to the other", said Nordin, of the Save Our Borneo Campaign, who uses only one name. Everything was covered in ash. A third of local children have respiratory diseases.

Peat is made up of ancient plant material which never decomposed fully due to wet conditions forming a carbon bank which continues to slowly store more carbon under natural conditions.

According to Wetlands International, a conservation group, the world's peat lands hold enough carbon for two thousand million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to 70 years of global emissions at current levels. Nearly half of it is in Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia and Indonesia. Burning the peat is only the most dramatic and rapid way in which the carbon is released.

Alue Dohong, who runs Wetlands International's operation in Central Borneo, says peat is like a sponge. When canals are cut through the bogs to drain them for agriculture the water rapidly flows out, drying the peat and making it flammable. But even if the peat doesn't burn, the carbon is oxidised and escapes into the atmosphere, releasing the same greenhouse gases more slowly. The earth shrinks, collapses and blows away.

Every square kilometre of drying peat produces an average of 8,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year through oxidisation alone.

One of the biggest environmental disasters on Borneo is the Mega Rice project, a 10,000-sq km area of former peat bog once covered with tropical forest that was felled, drained and burned by former Indonesian president Suharto for rice cultivation in the mid-1990s.

A tight grid of canals was cut through the area, destroying the peat, but rice never grew here. Suharto had ignored advice that the crop would fail in acidic soil.

"Who dared challenge Suharto at that time?" said Mr Dohong.

Today, the devastated area is strewn with the burned remains of trees and dusty soil. Ronald Vernimmen, a consultant from the Dutch engineering firm Delft Hydraulics, meanders down one of the canals in a motorised canoe.

He is involved in a survey to design a system of about 200 dams to prevent water seepage. Each one costs only about US$800 but, so far, just 12 have been built. Although the dry season is the best time for dam building, construction has stopped for lack of funds.

Although the existing degradation of peat lands in Borneo is alarming, there is economic pressure for even more bogs to be drained. Indonesia and Malaysia, which rule most of this giant island, are the world's top producers of palm oil, which is in growing demand for use in bio-diesel.

According to Wetlands International, each country grows about a quarter of its palm oil on peat lands. For the crop to flourish the land must be drained, resulting in carbon emissions that far outweigh any supposed environmental benefit.

In the Mega Rice area, which conservationists want to flood to preserve the peat, the district government has drawn up plans to plant 1,140 sq km of oil palms.

In all, Indonesia has allocated more than 100,000 sq km of Borneo for palm oil plantations by 2010. But campaigners say the official data is too opaque to know how much of this will be on peat land.

Ketut Sudiatmaja, the manager of a palm oil plantation, denied that his industry had any environmental responsibilities.

Moses Nicodemus, the director of environmental management for the Central Borneo provincial government, said he did not have data about palm oil plantations on peat bogs, and insisted that it was government policy to make the island "the lungs of the world".

It is also Indonesian government policy to surpass Malaysia to become the world's biggest palm oil producer, a goal it expects to achieve this year. The industry is booming, sparking mergers and takeovers among growers. Palm oil futures on the Malaysian exchange hit a record high of US$798 a tonne in June.

Supporting this growth is a guaranteed rise in demand for palm oil to make bio-diesel. European Union legislation requires that 2 per cent of all diesel must be vegetable oil, rising to 5.7 per cent in 2010 and 10 per cent by 2020. Elsewhere, governments including the US are promoting bio-fuels.

Palm oil is used in many products besides fuel, from food and toothpaste to shampoo. "The world is thirsty for palm oil," said environmentalist Hardi Baktiantoro from the Centre for Orangutan Protection. "Who doesn't need palm oil for food and cosmetics? I think everyone does."

Under the Kyoto Protocol, which set up carbon trading mechanisms to help limit greenhouse gas emissions, carbon released into the atmosphere through the destruction of forests and peat bogs is not included.

Environmentalists are pinning their hopes on a major UN climate conference in Bali in December. There is growing pressure, including from some governments, for a new carbon trading system to take account of carbon stored in peat and forests, thus creating an economic incentive to preserve them.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Indonesia Logging Curbs Hit Pulp Industry - Firms

Indonesia Logging Curbs Hit Pulp Industry - Firms

INDONESIA: August 24, 2007

JAKARTA - Police raids targeting illegal loggers in Indonesia are hurting supplies of raw materials to pulp and paper companies, two major forestry companies said on Thursday.

Indonesia had the fastest pace of deforestation in the world between 2000-2005, destroying an area of forest the size of 300 soccer pitches every our, according to Greenpeace.

Since the start of the year, police have tried to catch illegal loggers in areas including forest concessions owned by companies supplying wood to PT Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper and PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper in Sumatra island, said Agus Wahyudi, director of PT Sinar Mas Forestry.

Indah Kiat is a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper, part of the Sinar Mas Group, while PT Riau Andalan is a subsidiary of APRIL, owned by RGM International Group.

"The illegal logging operation has stopped completely flows of raw material from our partners. With the current raw material stocks, we can only operate until October," Wahyudi told reporters after executives from APRIL and Asia Pulp and Paper met government officials.

The two companies needed a total of 9 million tonnes of wood per year, Wahyudi said.

He said talks with the forestry ministry had not had any results.

Riau Andalan has the capacity to produce 2 million tonnes of pulp a year and 350,000 tonnes of paper a year, the company said on its Web site.

Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper has a capacity to produce 2 million tonnes of pulp, according to data from Indonesia's Industry Ministry.

Indonesia has 14 pulp mills with total capacity of 6.7 million tonnes and 79 paper factories with total output capacity of 10.36 million tonnes a year.

In 2006, Indonesia produced 6.23 million tonnes of pulp and 8.64 million tonnes of paper.

Environmentalists blame Indonesia's timber groups for illegal logging and the destruction of forests. The pulp and paper groups have denied that they use illegally logged timber.


Friday, 24 August 2007

Protector of East Kalimantan forests

Protector of E. Kalimantan forests.

The Jakarta Post, Balikpapan

Agusdin speaks at length and in great detail about forests and their biological diversity, and becomes more impassioned when it comes to the Sungai Wain Forest Reserve in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, a 9,872.80-hectare conservation area.

It was Agusdin who spearheaded action to prevent the primary rain forest’s total devastation when it was engulfed in flames from 1997 to 1998. It was the most widespread forest fire during the worst drought of the period, which triggered blazes in coal deposits.

Agusdin, acting as community facilitator and coordinator in the Sungai Wain fire-fighting drive, managed with the aid of locals to block the fire’s advance for three months until it was finally extinguished, minimizing damage and saving 4,000 ha of the reserve from destruction.

From 1999 to 2002, Agusdin coordinated local villagers and nature-lover groups to build fire barriers along 32 kilometers of the reserve’s borders and to maintain their vigilance against fires, so they would not spread to undamaged forest areas.

With his active campaigns for forest conservation over the last 11 years, Agusdin has deservedly been dubbed the region’s environmental savior and forest protector.

Using simple tools like a dagger, hoe and compass, Agusdin was prepared to spend three weeks in 1998 at Sungai Wain to combat the fire, leaving his family behind to go on this rescue mission.

This was not part of his job description as orangutan monitoring technical coordinator, a post he held with the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) until 1999 for a monthly salary of only Rp 250,000 (US$25); he did it voluntarily, expecting no reward.

Although half of Sungai Wain was already razed by the raging fire, Agusdin energetically led the surrounding community for four years to extinguish the burning coal deposits with additional implements like spades, long hooks and water pumps. During that period, 71 of 80 coal “hot spots” were put out and eight others doused by rainwater, which left only one blazing at a depth of 9 meters.

He said this spot could not be extinguished manually, and that it had to be placed under constant surveillance, particularly during the dry season.

Illegal logging and poaching were rife in Sungai Wain until 2002. Agusdin, armed with his determination and courage, reported the illegal activities to the Balikpapan Forestry office. Along with Balikpapan rangers, he helped capture several poachers.

But the poachers remained undeterred, so at the end of 2001 Agusdin took the initiative to spike trees with the help of local residents.

Apart from contributing his time and efforts to conservation, Agusdin was also prepared to cover the costs — pending funds disbursement — of monitoring, hot spot control, illegal logging raids, fire-fighting, building fire barriers and tree spiking.

“Ridding the forest of fire and crime is very important,” he stressed.

Amid his ardent forest conservation efforts, he acknowledged the psychological pressure he received through intimidation tactics by poachers and illegal loggers.

“But I don’t care about the intimidation and threats to stop capturing poachers. Some illegal loggers even vainly tried to bribe me,” Agusdin said.

Worse still, his life was once threatened when several thugs wielding knives chased him during a raid on poachers. But he faced the challenge without cringing.

“I was nearly killed when local farmers got furious after their crops were ravaged by Sungai Wain’s protected bears. A row with villagers resulting from a misunderstanding over forest conservation led to a brawl, which is an unforgettable experience,” he recalled about his early attempts to protect the reserve.

Agusdin worked as general administrative staffer of the Mof-Tropenbos Kalimantan program from 1999-2002.

His responsibilities conformed to his passion for forest conservation from 2002-2004, when he served as coordinator of a security unit of the Sungai Wain Forest Reserve. Agusdin has headed the forest conservation and protection division since 2005.

Agusdin received the Kalpataru environment award for his achievements and tireless dedication as forest protector at the State Palace on June 12, 2006.

He was also bestowed various awards by the mayor and the regional environmental control office of Balikpapan. At his house, located not far from Sungai Wain, a large photograph of the Kalpataru conferment by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is displayed.

Agusdin has also contributed to the shooting of a documentary, /Orangutans with Julia Roberts/, in Sungai Wain. The forest has been the site of BOSF’s orangutan releases since 1992.

Other rare wildlife species that live in the reserve include the Malay bear — locally called /beruang madu/ (honey bear, /Helarctos Malayanus/), besides numerous species of vegetation.

Not long ago, the bear was declared the mascot of Balikpapan City.

Today, about a year after Agusdin’s return from the State Palace, illegal forest activities persist. But his forest conservation performance has not diminished with the receipt of the Kalpataru award.

Instead, his conservation activities have increased, as the fire barriers he helped build are getting more extensive due to stubborn illegal logging. It is believed also that illegal mining operations are underway in Sungai Wain.

At present, Agusdin and relevant authorities are hunting down suspects and launching raids to catch the perpetrators red handed.

“This forest is like my second home. Its rescue mission will never end,” he said.

Oil palm not a golden crop for some.

Oil palm not a golden crop for some.

August 22 2007 New Straits Times, Malaysia

LANGKAT: Palm oil prices might be going through the roof and making investors and businessmen rich, but the soaring prices have not improved the lot of pickers and locals working on the fringes of the palm oil industry.

On the island of Sumatra, one of the main oil palm growing islands in Indonesia, the world's second-largest producer after Malaysia, 52-year-old Minah salvages unspoilt fruit from partly rotten palm branch that have fallen to the ground.

The Indonesian mother of eight ekes out a living on a state-run palm oil plantation near her house by picking through fallen branches to extract fruit which she sells for 600 rupiah per kg (100 rupiah = RM0.04) to a middleman.

"The plantation doesn't mind as long as I don't touch bunches still on trees," said Minah, as flies and other insects perch on her hands, stained by the sticky brown juice that oozes from the fruit. The sales net her around US$1 to US$2 per day. "And people say palm oil is expensive," she remarks.

Almost half of Indonesia's 220 million people still live on less than US$2 (US$1 = RM3.50) a day, according to the World Bank. Poverty levels remain high despite a pledge by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to tackle widespread poverty made worse by chronic unemployment and underemployment.

In Langkat, about 50 km west of North Sumatra's provincial capital of Medan, hundreds of people rely on palm oil - the world's second most popular edible oil after soy oil. They work as illegal fruit collectors like Minah, small holders, drivers, middlemen and labourers for palm oil refiners.

In nearby Malaysia, palm oil futures trading on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange in Kuala Lumpur - the benchmark for global prices - hit a historic high of RM2,764 a tonne in early June.

The price has since dropped but is still within sight of the highs, helped by soaring demand for palm oil in manufactured foods as well as for new greener biodiesel made from palm oil. Obtained by crushing oil palm fruit, the reddish-brown oil is also used in cookies, toothpaste and ice cream.

Indonesia is set to overtake Malaysia as the world's top producer this year with output seen at 17.4 million tonnes, up from 15.9 million tonnes in 2006. But back in Sumatra, many farmers struggle to make ends meet while revenue at big plantation companies such as PT Astra Agro Lestari tbk has doubled on sky-high palm oil prices. The plantation companies are enjoying a boom in commodity prices driven by strong demand from countries such as India and China and demand from the biofuel sector.

The biodiesel frenzy has also sparked mergers and takeovers across the plantation sectors in Asia. Big firms with their financial muscle are able to expand their plantations and hire people to work for them while small holders are left behind.

With little support from the government, some palm oil farmers have to cope with high prices of fertilisers and a lack of funds to maintain their plantations and boost output by replacing old, unproductive trees.

Jakarta's recent decision to raise the export tax on crude palm oil to 6.5 per cent from 1.5 per cent is another blow to farmers as it has caused prices to drop to around 1,000 rupiah a kilogram from 1,200 rupiah.

"I can't rely on palm oil alone to survive, especially because the price of fertiliser is very high," said Juanda Peranginanginthe, a 25-year-old farmer who cultivates 70 palm oil trees inherited from his father.

Farmers bear the brunt of the increased excise tax because refiners now refuse to buy fresh fruit bunches without a discount, said Asmar Arsjad, head of the Indonesian Palm Oil Farmers Association, which represents five million smallholders.

Indonesia has 6.07 million hectares of land planted with oil palm, of which 45 per cent is owned by private firms. Smallholders own 43 per cent of the country's oil palm plantations while state plantation firms own the rest. Indonesia raised the export tax for crude palm oil and its by-products to stabilise domestic cooking oil prices which surged due to global palm oil price hikes and dealt a blow to millions of poor Indonesians who rely on the oil as a staple food.

Rusman Sihombing, a driver who has been working for a palm oil collector for five years, said he has to transport 5,000 kilograms of the fruit to break even due to the paltry fees he receives for hauling the crops to refiners. "I am not sure if the increase in (palm oil) prices actually has an impact on people here," he said. - Reuters

Prosecutor demands 4 years in jail for former forestry director general

Prosecutor demands 4 years in jail for former forestry director general
JAKARTA (Antara): The prosecutor in a Corruption Eradiction Commission (KPK) court session on Wednesday demanded four years in jail for former director general of production forest management, Waskito Suryodibroto, for alleged graft in the development of oil-palm plantations in East Kalimantan.

The KPK prosecutor said the defendant who held the post from 1998 to 2002, had issued an “in-principle” approval for the issuance of timber utilization permits to eight companies which had not fulfilled the needed requirements.

The eight companies are PT Kaltim Bhakti Sejahtera, PT Bhumi Simanggaris Indah, PY Tirta Madu Sawit Jaya, PY Bulungan Argo Jaya, PY Repenas Bhakti Utama, PT Bulungan Hijau Perkasa, PT Borneo Bhakti Sejahtera and PT Bhumi Sawit Perkasa.

“The defendant issued the in-principle approval based on direct request from the companies without going through the office of the Forestry Ministry in East Kalimantan,” public prosecutor KMS Roni said when reading his indictment at the KPK`s Corruption Crime Court on Wednesday.

Waskito also issued the approval based on a recommendation on reserve area by East Kalimantan Governor Suwarna Abdul Fatah through an oil palm plantation recommendation letter.

The eight companies did not fulfill the requirement as stipulated in the Forestry and Plantation Minister’s decree No. 538/Kpts-II/1999, the prosecutor said, as they left the forest and did not develop palm oil plantations after they cut the trees.

Besides demanding four years in jail, the prosecutor also asked the judge to fine the defendant Rp200 million in substitution of six months in jail.(**)
Source: The Jakarta Post

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Palm oil at any cost - Indonesian style, with help from Malaysian companies.

Before focussing on the photos
you might like to try this; close
your eyes for a few moments
and conjure up in your mind,
images of Borneo and its
pristine rainforests - the kind
you have probably seen on
television, in books, magazines etc.
What do you see?

Now look at the photos to your
right and see what was once
rainforests full of wildlife –
some almost certainly still to
be discovered and named.
Cures for many human medical
conditions, including cancer,
may have been in these forests.

The loss to Indonesia,
its people, the world, is

Why is it happening? Largely
because oil palm companies
sometimes legally, sometimes
not, cut down the forests, tear
up the earth (mostly peat),
plant oil palm trees, pour
insecticides and fertiliser
into the ground and
sit back to reap large
profits from the palm oil
which often finds its way
into household products in
Great Britain, America,
Australia, etc. etc. Check out
link to the right of this page.

Some oil palm companies who
obtain licences to cut down forests to
grow oil palm trees, log the
forest (quick and highly profitable)
and they then disappear.

Having made a quick profit they leave the land
bear and disappear. Indonesia
has millions of hectares of such
land which oil palm companies
could now use, but they don’t –
because they want the
valuable ($$$$$) rainforest trees
as well as the land.

All the above photos were taken in the Central Kalimantan region in in June 2007.

Where pristine rainforests once stood.

Report from Palm Oil Plantation Visits in Central Kalimantan,
June 2007 by an Indonesian NGO hired by Nature Alert
with the support of a UK charity.

The photos show land that had until recently been covered by rainforest.

My trip to many areas in Central Kalimantan has just finished, but the impression is still strong in my mind. Almost all of the jungle is now turned into a mono cultural plantation, palm oil producers.

I thought I must have hidden myself for so long in the National Park, where I used to work for three years, and not knowing what was really going on out side of the Park; a massive destruction of bio-diversity is happening nearly every minute.

I was glad to get some good shots of excavators in action, but when I was taking photos and recording the moments, my heart cried with the trees that are torn down by the giant merciless machines. The sound of the machine mixed up with the scream of those poor trees, in my imagination. Don’t we know that human needs them? I questioned in my heart.

Later, the same horrible scenes were enacted over and over again, and it became no longer a surprise during my journey, more and more land the palm oil plantations want to occupy, less and less forest remains, and less wild life will survive. I saw a long tailed monkey that was searching for food in the middle of the road between Sampit and Palangka Raya, he was collecting the palm nuts that fell off from the trucks. I believe this monkey was not the only wildlife that was suffering from the lack of food.

The orangutan probably suffers the most from the deforestation by the plantations. Because the orangutan is the one of the biggest mammals in the forest of Borneo, the size of their body demands a large source of food. The destruction of the forest habitat put them in the forefront for extinction. Beside struggling for their food they also suffer from hunting and presence of the palm oil plantation company that won’t allow orangutans to share the land with them; although maybe only to go across the land to go to another patch of the forest near by.

I had chance to chat with a staff member who worked for the GEMA REKSA MEKARSARI company in Lamandau District, he told me (even proudly) that his friend has just shot an orangutan in their area when he was hunting in the forest next to their palm oil plantation a few days earlier. I controlled myself not to let the anger in me take over my mind when they were making fun of this poor big male orangutan. They said that the orangutan’s belly was burst from the bullet and they guts were spilled out. It is hard not to be sad.

Another story of orangutan killing I heard was from a government official in the same area who used to work for a palm oil plantation company. He told me that the orangutan were easily seen before when he was still working for the palm oil plantation, and when they, the orangutan showed up, they would just grab a gun and shoot them, and give the meat to the Dayak people for their meal. It is known that the Dayak people from this area eat orangutan meat.

Some local people I met during my visit adored the palm oil company because they got a job from them, but some others who still insist on keeping their original work in farming, have to endure great sadness from the palm oil plantation’s greediness for land. A lady from Batuhambawang village in Lamandau District had lost two of her rubber trees plantations from fire last year. One part of her land had 2000 rubber trees in it; the palm oil plantation that is located next to this lady’s plantation was burnt and the fire spread out to her land. In the beginning she could only cry for her misfortune then when she was brave enough to complain through the head of the village to the palm oil plantation company, she got a small compensation for the trees she lost. The company paid her about 200 US$ (Rp. 2 million) for all her lost trees, about the same amount that is needed to buy the young rubber trees, but the rubber trees of hers originally were already ready to be harvested, and it takes 5- 6 years for a rubber tree to be ready for harvesting.

First she has to plant the trees again, and then she has to wait for another 5-6 years. Is it fair for this old lady? Plus, now the other company is taking advantage of this widow lady’s natural source from her land. This lady has stones for building material on her land, every day two or three times a day, a truck from the palm oil company (PT. GEMA REKSA MEKARSARI) takes her stone to build the road in their plantation, and she has been paid nothing by the palm oil company for the stones. She is considered weak as a person because she is old and mentally weak because she lacks of the courage to speak up, so they just take advantage of her.

After all, my travels in Central Kalimantan, I have come to the conclusion that the expansion of the palm oil companies is extensive and the destruction to the forest has been devastating. Is it just to increase Indonesian export until it reach the 0.9 % of the total world export as Marie Elka Pangestu, the Minister of Trade wants? (Rakyat Merdeka newspaper, 11 May,07)? Must we sacrifice the orangutan and the world’s richest bio-diversity in Kalimantan? Must we allow the farmers and the other people indigenous to the land who presently live there and make a living from the forest to be superseded and oppressed by the greed of a few rich corporations?

The present time will pass as surely as the clock ticks
Never, ever to go back to the same as it was before..
The present time is the most important time for the well being of the future.
Will we regret later when we look back to these times?
Or will we be glad of what we have done ?
20 July 2007