Indonesia –– Indonesian authorities are failing to take action against a palm oil company that is operating illegally in Central Kalimantan, alleges a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telapak.
The report, published Thursday, says that authorities have failed to conduct a criminal investigation into the illegal conversion of more than 23,000 hectares of peatland and peat forest by PT SCP, part of the BEST Group, despite being provided with “sufficient evidence” to do so. EIA and Telapak say the dossier detailed PT SCP’s violations of laws governing “land allocation, access to resources and environmental management.”
“This case clearly demonstrates the gulf between the rhetoric on reducing deforestation and the reality on the ground. The Government has been aware of the illegality for years but has demonstrated no intent to do anything to protect the environment or the local community in line with the law,” said EIA Forests Campaigner Tom Johnson in a statement. “Companies such as PT SCP are operating with extraordinary levels of impunity. A key reason for that is because government officials dont appear to feel they have any obligation to enforce the law.”
“So long as this company continues to profit from its illegal activities with impunity, the Government is effectively sending out the message that it is open season on Indonesias peatlands.”
The report says such impunity is common in the plantation sector in Central Kalimantan, the province that is the centerpiece of Indonesia’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) pilot program.
“The protection of peatlands from plantation expansion forms a core part of the strategy, but the case of PT SCP suggests these reforms cannot succeed without prosecuting the worst conversion criminals,” said EIA.
The report comes as environmentalists continue to pressure the government over ongoing clearing of the Tripa peat swamp in Aceh Province on the island of Sumatra. Recent NASA data shows that fires continue to burn in an area of peat swamp where PT Kalista Alam, a palm oil company, is converting land for an oil palm plantation despite the government’s moratorium on such activity. The concession Kalista Alam is developing lies in an area that is officially off-limits under the moratorium, yet the company has not stopped land-clearing activities.
Map showing fires and forest clearing outside PT SCP’s concession area in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Courtesy of EIA/Telapak