EPA Visit, Let’s Have A Look At Oil Palm Plantations in Indonesia
22 October 2012 - Aceh, Sumatra- endoftheicons. “If the world refuses oil palm, that’s not fair. I die hard there. I talked to Greenpeace, telling that there is no environmental destructing oil palm in Indonesia.” That was President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono's (SBY’s) statement by the end of June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as quoted by Investor Daily.
Who knows, may be the President was too busy to read or to receive reports on the issues around the operation of oil palm plantations in this country. The statement contradicts the report of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claiming that the production of Crude Palm Oil from Indonesia is environmentally unfriendly. EPA replied by visiting this country to look closer at the oil palm plantation.
Before visiting the plantations, EPA’s representative attended a 1-day workshop with the topic Sustainable Palm Oil Related to GHG Emission in Jakarta. This event was initiated by ISPO Commission in collaboratio with the Indonesian Oil Palm Council (DMSI), Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) and supported by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Let us have a glimpse look at some excerpts of events showing how “unclean” the oil palm plantations in this country, be it of the members of Rountable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or not. Still fresh in our memory, by the end of September 2012, as Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah revoked the permit of PT. Kalista Alam over 1,605 ha oil palm plantation in Aceh’s Tripa Peat Swamp. The permit issued by former Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf in August 2011 was included within the area of moratorium.
This permit was not only violating the procedure – which was legally challenged by WALHI Aceh and granted by the Administrative High Court of Medan, the land clearing was done by burning. For the clearing by burning, the Presiden Director of PT Kalista Alam became a suspect.
Is Tripa Peat Swamp free from destruction? The answer is: No. Why? There are still oil palm companies remaining within this peat swamp forest area, which is part of Leuser Ecosystem. By the end of 2012, smokes were still observed within the areas of several oil palm concessions.
Data from Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) obtained from satellite images until September 2012, the highest number of hotspots were identified within two olil palm concession areas, which are 134 in the area of PT Surya Panen Subur and 55 of PT Dua Perkasa Lestari. “It turns out that whilst fussing about PT Kalista Alam, the others took the chance to continue their action,” said Riswan Zen, a researche of Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL), by the beginnig of October 2012.
Another case, within the plantation of PT Bumi Pratama Khatulistiwa (PT BPK) of Wilmar International Group. By the end of August 2012 in the village of Sungai Enau, Sub district Kuala Mandor b of the District Kubu Raya in West Kalimantan, farmers have been protesting against this oil palm company, member of RSPO. This is not the first time. They repeatedly demanded the company to fulfil its promises, among others to improve the access road and to employ the surrounding community.
Those to points are parts of the agreement between the company and the community as the condition for the community to release their lands. This agreement has been reviewed many times, the last was due in the mid of August. Since there was no realisation, the community reclaimed their land of around 4,000 ha. This is only one of a number of the issues resulted through the presence of oil palm companies in this area.
Investigation of WALHI West Kalimantan in April 2012 shows that the company has ignored the social aspect and the aspect of sustainable management of the environment. The company also ignored a number of regulations related to the obligations to fulfil as being member of RSPO and the IFC’s standard of performance.
The standard regulations of RSPO are among others commitment to transparency, complying with existing laws and regulations, commitment to long term economic and financial viability. Then, targeted best management practices of the plantation and the mill, environmental responsibilty, conservation of natural resources and biodiversity, as well as responsibility upon workers, individuals and community affected by the plantation and the mill.
Standard criteria of IFC are among others assessment on social, environmental, management and labor systems and working condition, mitigation to pollution, utilisation, health and community’s safety and security. Then, land acquisition and resettlement as well as sustainable conservation of biodiversity and natural resources, indigenous community and culutural heritage.
According to Hendrikus Adam, Research and Communication Coordinator of WALHI West Kalimantan, WALHI’s findings are among others that the community does not experience any social responsibility of the company. If there was, it was based on the request of the community, not based on the company’s initiative. And then also that the company grabs the land from the community during the expansion of the plantation.
Conflict potential in the field related to the presence of the company still exists. This is visible through sign boards installed by the community restricting the company to work on the land within the company’s plantation area. “The community has been demonstrating demanding company justice. The community has claimed the land, potential conflicts in the field, the presence of associated companies still exist. Many people claimed plantation land was managed by the company and never divided amongst the farmers,” he said mid September 2012.
The company was considered not trasparent in the management of the plantation. The clearing of the plantation land of PT. BPK also destroyed the forest in the surrounding of community’s settlement. “This totally eliminates the biodiversity and existing wild life as well as traditional medicine plants.”
By Sapariah Saturi, - Free translation by Adji Darsoyo