WWF Accuses APRIL of Breaking Sustainability Commitment by Logging Rainforest in Borneo

The World Wide Fund for Nature has accused Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), a Singapore-based pulp and paper giant, of breaking its recent conservation commitment by destroying rainforest in Indonesian Borneo. Read more below to find out what information this claim is based on and how APRIL has responded.

Read more on Mongabay.

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Two heavy equipments operating in PT. Adindo Hutani Lestari (AHL) Sesayap Sector concession.
Two heavy equipments operating in PT. Adindo Hutani Lestari (AHL) Sesayap Sector concession. Photo taken by GAPETA Borneo at 3°33’21.7948″N, 117°4’25.8401″E on 19 April 2014. 

Environmental group WWF has accused Singapore-based pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) of breaking its recent conservation commitment by destroying rainforest in Indonesian Borneo. APRIL has denied the charges. 

WWF made the allegations after a field investigation by a coalition of local partners found forest clearing and drainage canals in an area of peatland managed by APRIL supplier PT. Adindo Hutani Lestari (AHL) in North Kalimantan, Indonesia’s newest province. The WWF report said that the area cleared included High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) identified by an APRIL-commissioned assessment. 

“Our field investigation between 17 and 25 April 2014 discovered AHL to be still clearing natural forest, even a small High Conservation Value Forest identified by Tropenbos for protection, in its Sesayap Sector concession of 63,700 hectares,” stated the report. “Investigators discovered at least 5 excavators at coordinates 3°33’21.7948″N, 117°4’25.8401″E in the process of cutting, collecting, and transporting mixed tropical timber from the HCVF clearance. The team also discovered piles of freshly cut MTH in other areas. The team estimated that deep peat canals had been constructed in the past 1 – 2 months, they were approximately 7 to 8 meters wide and more than 4 meters deep.” 

Kamiruddin, head of GAPETA Borneo, one of the NGO’s that is part of the coalition, said the clearing represents not only a breach of APRIL’s commitment, but a violation of Indonesia’s law governing conversion of “deep peat” areas. 

“It appears that APRIL’s sustainability commitments are only on paper, but not in the forest,” Kamiruddin said in a statement. “Their deforestation and peat canal excavation should be stopped as they cause serious environmental damages including carbon emissions. Deforestation on deep peat should also be stopped because it is protected by law.” 

APRIL however refuted the report’s claims, asserting that the area didn’t have high conservation value. 

“We have conducted a two-week investigation into a report that Adindo Hutani Lestari violated APRIL’s policy by clearing HCVF,” APRIL told mongabay.com. “Our finding: the company did not violate the policy. Adindo has honored the HCVF area identified on the final map of its concession. It appears the report was incorrectly based on an earlier draft map.” 

APRIL went on to invite WWF to do a joint field visit at the site “to confirm that the identified HCVF area remains intact.” But the logging giant didn’t refute the report’s finding that carbon-dense peatland was drained in the concession. 

“AHL’s Sesayap Sector concession still has a large area of good natural forest, much of it on deep peat,” said a statement issued by the coalition, which includes GAPETA Borneo, Kalimantan Forest Monitoring NGOs (RPHK) and WWF-Indonesia East Kalimantan. “The NGO coalition urges RGE/APRIL to immediately start a forest clearance moratorium in all APRIL suppliers’ concessions, even if APRIL had commissioned HCV assessments already. NGOs also called on APRIL to have proper HCV assessments conducted and peer-reviewed by the HCV Resources Network and also have independent HCS and peat assessments conducted to ensure that the company causes no further deforestation.” 

APRIL has been long targeted by environmentalists for its forest management practices, which have resulted in vast areas of wildlife-rich rainforests and peatlands being converted to industrial plantations. Pressure on the company mounted after its biggest competitor, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), established a wide-ranging forest conservation policy and committed to restoring and protecting a million hectares of natural forest. 

In January APRIL announced a “Sustainable Forest Management Policy” that was initially welcomed by WWF, but heavily criticized by other environmental groups. The policy included a forest restoration commitment and a moratorium on conversion of high conservation value areas and high carbon stock forests but did not include an outright ban on forest conversion. APRIL signaled its intent to continue sourcing rainforest fiber for another five years. 

Pulp and paper plantations have been one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in Sumatra over the past decade. The industry has recently started expanding its footprint in Kalimantan. 

CITATION: GAPETA Borneo, RPHK and WWF Indonesia-East Kalimantan. Natural Forest Clearance Continues on Deep Peat in APRIL Supplier Concession. 20 May 2014.