Sinar Mas should prove all plantations sustainable: Activists
Adianto P. Simamora and Evi Mariani , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Mon, 04/12/2010
Activists have called the steps a palm plantation giant was taking to clear itself of Greenpeace Indonesia’s accusations that it destroyed protected rainforests insufficient.
By looking only into the plantations highlighted in Greenpeace’s report, and not all of its plantations, PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology’s (SMART) actions will not halt deforestation, Greenpeace campaigner Bustar Maitar said over the weekend.
Last week, SMART announced it had hired two independent consultants, Control Union Certification (CUC) of the Netherlands and the British Standards Institute Group (BSI) to verify the allegations.
The issue emerged after Greenpeace released photographs to the international community of Sinar Mas clearing rainforests in protected areas. It also released a video linking destruction of orangutan habitats in the forests with the palm plantation and Swiss food giant Nestlé, which buys palm oil from Indonesia, among other from SMART plantations. Consequently, Nestlé and a number of other buyers including Unilever have suspended future purchases of crude palm oil from SMART.
“What they’re doing is inspecting only two sites mentioned in our reports,” Bustar said. He added that Sinar Mas was never transparent about the size of its palm plantation concessions, leading to suspicion from Greenpeace that what they had uncovered might be only the tip of the iceberg.
“First they need to be open about their concession, then they need to prove that none of their plantations are displacing forests,” he said.
Palm plantations have been the target of criticism from social and environmental groups at home and abroad due to problematic practices such as converting rainforests and peatland and alleged poor labor conditions.
Recently, a coalition of activists renewed calls for the government to ban any further expansion of oil palm plantations, including in border areas with Malaysia.
Ari Munir from the Network for Participatory Mapping (JKPP) said that about 500,000 hectares of plantations in border areas in Kalimantan harmed forests and peatland.
“The government has never taken any action to punish companies,” he said Tuesday.
Activists from Greenpeace Indonesia, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) and the Alliance of Archipelagic Indigenous People (AMAN) have repeatedly issued similar calls for a moratorium on oil palm plantation expansion.
“We will continue with our campaign to press the government to impose a moratorium until the authorities start taking action,” Walhi climate campaigner Teguh Surya said.
Greenpeace earlier sent a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono asking the government to withdraw the 2009 decree allowing plantations to convert peatland with a depth of less than 3 meters.
The National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) in its study recommended a moratorium on peatland conversion to meet Indonesia’s pledged emission cuts to tackle climate change.
It says peatland conversion contributed 1 billion tons to carbon dioxide emissions per year, half of the country’s total emissions.
The Association of Indonesian Palm Oil Producers (Gapki) accused the foreign environmental groups of continuing campaigns against the country’s production of crude palm oil by using green issues to hamper exports.
Gapki executive director Fadhil Hasan claimed that most of the 7.3 million hectares occupied by palm oil plantations were located in conversion forests allocated by the government.
Fadhil added that only 300,000 hectares of palm oil plantations were in peatland area. Gapki represents 250 palm oil producers.