PRESS RELEASE : Too Much Hot Air – Current Failure of the Indonesian Pulp and Paper Industry to Reform Its Peatland Management

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Jakarta, 10 August 2017 – Today, the Environmental Paper Network (EPN) and Jikalahari (Riau Forest rescue Network) are launching a report titled ‘Too Much Hot Air’. This event is also supported by wetlands International.

The report focuses on the current failure of the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia to reform its peatland management. The report also argues that current commitments are not sufficient to prevent further degradation whilst the solution is at hand: local communities have been using these peatlands economically for centuries without degrading them.

Whilst the use of natural forest for producing paper has largely stopped, peatlands are still being drained to grow Acacia pulp wood. This leads to more CO2 emissions than those of the whole country of Finland yearly emission. Losing carbon from the soil triggers the peatland to subside, leading to flooding and loss of productive land, all of which will cause further suffering of the local communities already directly impacted by fire and haze. The drainage of peatlands is also the root cause of the yearly returning haze disaster as dried-out peat is susceptible to fires.

The report shows that there is a range of traditional uses of peatlands by local communities, like Sago (starch) for cookies and noodles, Rattan for furniture and Galam for pole wood, which can also be used for paper making. These examples should be consolidated and exchanged with other communities to build capacity and studied for upscaling in the plantation industry. Woro, Jikalahari coordinator, quoted that “The industry is too slow to reform its high climate-impact practices, despite its commitments. The promises they have declared are still far from best practice. On the contrary, the community have been implementing practices that minimize the risk of fires in peat land”.

One option to minimize the impact of drainage in managing peatland is by choosing species that are already available locally or originated in the peatland. The community in Sungai Tohor have been planting Sago (Metroxylon spp.) in their peatland. Abdul Manan from Sungai Tohor explained that “We have been planting Sago since a long time ago, before Indonesia’s independence. This way we support our livelihood for generations. We even have never experienced (forest) fire until that time when the company started operating in our area by building canals”. Besides Sago, the local community of Padamaran village in South Sumatra has also been using Purun (Eleocharis dulcis), which grows on peatlands, in the production of different kinds of handicrafts, such as mats, bags, sandals, and hats. This has added some economic value for women in the village”, added Saparuddin from South Sumatra.

While the community in the villages have chosen to protect peatland and gain economic benefit, on the contrary, the pulp and paper companies remain reluctant in improving their practices on peatlands. Choosing to plant local/ original species should be taken as an option on rewetted peatland. Considering that the Indonesian Government is targeting two (2) million ha of peatlands, this option can be applied. At the same time, local communities should be involved in the practice since they have already acquired the knowledge and willingness to actively participate in environmental preservation measures.

Therefore, we recommend the following :

  1. APP/ APRIL and all the pulp and paper companies in Indonesia to revitalize their commitment to environmental sustainability by applying meaningful and significant improvements, including: 1) to apply peat protection and management regulation as is regulated in the Government Regulation (PP) No. 57/ 2016; 2) to implement non-drainage practices; and, 3) to choose local species with community inclusion and involvement.
  2. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) and Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) to ascertain that pulp and paper companies comply to the peat protection and management regulation, and to urge the industry to adopt practices that ensure peatland sustainability, in order to safeguard the future of both peatland and the pulp and paper industry itself.

For further information about the report, please contact:

  1. Irwansyah Reza Lubis, Program Coordinator for Community, Biodiversity, and Climate Change – Wetlands International Indonesia | e-mail: [email protected] | Tel: +62(0) 251 8312189
  2. Woro Supartinah, Coordinator – Jikalahari | e-mail: [email protected] | Tel: +62(0) 7618402161
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