Palm Oil For Biofuels Increases Social Conflicts And Undermines Land Reform In Indonesia

Palm Oil ForBiofuels Increases Social Conflicts And Undermines Land Reform In Indonesia

30 January 2007

Source:  Sawit Watch

Indonesia — Hereby Sawit Watch expresses before the European Parliament, theEuropean Commission, the governments and citizens of the European Union, itsdeep concern over the policies being adopted which promote the use and import ofbiofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels. Their disproportionate use is one ofthe new driving forces of large-scale and monoculture oil palm plantationexpansion that contributes to global warming, social conflicts and rights abusesin producing countries, particularly Indonesia.

Oil palm plantations have been commercially developed in Indonesia since 1911.Until 2005, oil palm plantations have covered 6.04 million hectares, andexisting regional development plans allotted a further 20 million hectares foroil palm plantations. Amazingly, oil palm plantations planting
rate to have reached 400,000 ha annually.

We are very concerned by the fact that oil palm plantations are a major cause ofdeforestation, forests fires, land and water pollution, and are being imposed onlocal communities and indigenous peoples without concern for their rights,livelihoods or welfare, and managed with insufficient concern for the rights andwelfare of plantations workers and smallholders.

Up to 2006, there have been 350 conflicts related to land issues against oilpalm plantation developments in Indonesia. These unresolved conflicts, will getworse if the current biofuels policy is put in place. They will deprive furtherlocal communities and indigenous peoples from their lands
and livelihoods.

Biodiesel from palm oil requires intensive capital investment to make itprofitable. If an oil palm plantation and one mill are developed to producecrude palm oil on an economic scale, it only needs 20,000 hectares, whereas thedevelopment of an economically viable and profitable oil palm
plantation for biodiesel requires a minimum of 50,000 hectares.

In light of the high demand for palm oil biodiesel from European markets, thegovernment of Indonesia and the Association of Indonesian Palm Oil Growers (GAPKI),seeking to also ensure continued supplies for existing European food markets,have mutually agreed to allot 3 million hectares of land for oil palmplantations for biodiesel production in Indonesia.

The Indonesian President has expressed commitment to move ahead with agrarianreform through land distribution for farmers. This is contrary to thepresidential decree to encourage biofuels development for the sake of povertyand unemployment alleviation trough large-scale oil palm
plantations for biofuel production.

The situation described above has led to extreme concentration of land andnatural resources in the hands of only a few business people from the oil palmplantations and palm oil industries. The potential implication of such mutuallyadopted policy in favor of palm oil expansion is obvious: Millions
of hectares of Indonesian lands will be under the absolute control of major oilpalm plantation groups and a few conglomerates.

It is therefore unavoidable that, as a consequence of Europe’s biofuels policy,the land rights of indigenous peoples and local communities will be relinquishedfurther, and that food security will be undermined and lands for agriculturalpurposes and subsistence livelihoods will diminish.

The sense of environmentally friendly and reducing greenhouse gases by producingbiofuel from palm oil will make no sense to protect global climate becausemillion of Indonesians are adversely affected by this policy and will furtherhampering resolution of existing conflicts and protection of the only planet.

The idea of palm oil biodiesel being environmentally sustainable and climatefriendly makes no sense: Emissions from deforestation, peat drainage and firesrelease vast amounts of greenhouse gases and fuel global warming further. Palmoil expansion directly affects millions of Indonesians and will further hamperresolution of existing conflicts and protection of the global environment.

It is time for the EU to take corrective and effective measures by adoptingpolicies and declaring a commitment to global justice which will lead to realchanges which will benefit local communities and indigenous peoples in Indonesia.It is time to make markets, governments, and companies accountable.

Global justice and solidarity are the only way to end starvation and toalleviate poverty. Reducing palm oil consumption will help to create moreacceptable living conditions in the southern countries, including Indonesia.Development without justice is not development, it is exploitation!

Sawit Watch is an Indonesian Non-Government Organization, group of individualsconcern with adverse negative social and environmental impacts of oil palmplantation development in Indonesia. Sawit Watch’s (Oil Palm Watch) individualmembers work in 17 provinces where oil palm plantations
are being developed. Sawit Watch seeks to promote social justice through rightsbased approaches.

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