Thursday, 19 June 2008

Regents seek approval for plantation expansion

So much for the Kinshasha Declaration. I wonder if GRASP/UNEP/Ape Alliance will have anything to say about the article below. If the past is anything to go by the answer will be NO.

Jakarta Post 19th June

Regents seek approval for plantation expansion

Benget Besalicto Tnb, Contributor, Sampit, Central Kalimantan
At least two regencies in Central Kalimantan are waiting for approval from the Jakarta-based forestry ministry to convert some of their forest into industrial plantations, the regents say.

The conversion -- most of it from former industrial forest concessions -- is meant to accommodate expansion plans from several palm oil companies, including Agro Indomas, Agro Bukit, Best Agro International Group, Wilmar Group and Sinar Mas Group, said the regent of Seruyan, Darwan Ali, last week.

"But we have had no words from the ministry so far," he said.
Under current regulations, plantation businesses are under the authority of the agriculture ministry, while industrial wood-based forest businesses are managed by the forestry ministry. But any land conversion from forest into industry will also have to be approved by the forestry ministry.

Syarif Bastaman, a member of Agro Indomas' board of directors, who is also a shareholder in the company, admitted his company had planned to invest more than Rp 7 trillion until 2012 to expand his company's palm oil plantations.

"We've planned to invest up to Rp 7 trillion until 2012 here. If the forestry ministry approved it, we will soon realize our investment here.

"One of our projects is to develop the 22,000 hectare Agro Wanalestari plantation in Seruyan regency, which could employ more than 3,000 workers if realized. Currently, we've employed more than 5,000 workers in both Agro Indomas and Agro Bukit," he said.

Agro Indomas and Agro Bukit are two sister companies under the Agro Group, which is owned by Carson Cumberbeth, a Sri Lankan company owned by business giant Hari Selvanatan.

"The protracted process resulted from the difference in land use maps between the regencies and the central government or ministries in Jakarta," Syarif said.

Darwan said his administration had designed a new space arrangement. But all the areas it proposed for conversion are former forest concession areas, which required approval by the forestry ministry.

"But so far we haven't got any response from the forestry ministry in Jakarta."

Darwan was speaking after attending fire awareness training held by Agro Indomas, in cooperation with the ministry of forestry, the Indonesian Palm Oil Council, WWF Indonesia, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) and Care International.

Kotawaringin Timur Regent Wahyudi K. Anwar shared Darwan's view, saying the new investments, if realized, will certainly boost local economies in the regencies.

Local government data shows that there are about 1.5 million hectares of former industrial forest concession areas that can be converted into plantations and industrial forests in the province.