New evidence indicates illegal land burning in ‘protected’ forest
LONDON: On June 16, 2011, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telapak exposed how a Malaysian-owned plantation firm breached Indonesian President Yudhoyono’s forest conversion moratorium on May 19 – the very day it was signed into law.
The exposé detailed how PT Menteng Jaya Sawit Perdana was actively clearing and draining peat land and forests in an area covered by the moratorium in Central Kalimantan, and highlighted widespread law enforcement failings in the Province.
EIA/Telapak’s evidence received extensive media attention worldwide, including reports that PT Menteng had engaged in land-burning. As such burning is illegal in Indonesia, the country’s Forestry Ministry reportedly pledged an investigation into the allegation.
The coverage also prompted a response from PT Menteng’s parent company, the Malaysian plantation conglomerate Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK).
On June 20, a statement issued by KLK denied the EIA/Telapak accusations, and made unsubstantiated and unclear claims about supposed legal rights to operate within the President’s moratorium area in Central Kalimantan.
KLK also specifically denied land burning on the ground. Its plantations director Roy Lim was quoted as stating: “KLK has long abandoned using fire to clear land for new planting or replanting. Our policy and practice is zero burning for such activities.”
However, new evidence suggests burning is indeed occurring in KLK’s rogue plantation.
On June 24, 2011, EIA/Telapak researchers learned that satellites using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to monitor for fires and hotspots across South East Asia had registered a high percentage certainty of a fire within the concession area of PT Menteng Jaya Sawit Perdana on June 22-23.
MODIS data is the basis of the near-real-time hotspots monitoring tool provided free by the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS), funded by NASA.
EIA Senior Forest Campaigner Jago Wadley said: “KLK should prove it is not carrying out land burning in its plantation or its denials will amount to no more than hot air. This evidence puts KLK very much in the hot spot.”
Telapak Campaigns Director Hapsoro said: “Two days after KLK claimed not to carry out land burning, satellite data has revealed burning in a KLK plantation – the very plantation EIA/Telapak exposed illegally breaching Indonesia’s forest conversion moratorium. We hope the Ministry of Forestry’s pledge to investigate peatland burning by the company is serious, and look forward to the investigation’s findings.”
EIA/Telapak analysis of MODIS data from FIRMS also revealed numerous other fires on land in Kalimantan supposedly covered by Indonesia’s moratorium. With burning season entering full swing in Indonesia, the two organisations are concerned that Indonesia’s commitment to REDD+ remains in danger of failing without significant law enforcement reforms.
Interviews are available on request: please contact senior campaigner Jago Wadley on email@example.com or forest campaigner Tomasz Johnson on firstname.lastname@example.org; telephone 020 7354 7960.
View the original exposé of the moratorium breach here.
1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based Non Governmental Organisation and charitable trust (registered charity number 1040615) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.
2. Telapak is an independent environmental organisation based in Bogor, Indonesia. Visit www.telapak.org for more information.
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