S. Korean company accused of deforestation in Papua
New study finds Korindo has cleared 50,000 ha of forest in Papua and North Maluku Korindo acknowledged fires in its areas, but said not responsible
Following activity in Sumatra and Kalimantan, palm oil companies have begun expansion in Papua, which houses Indonesia’s only remaining virgin forests as other parts of the country have largely been converted to plantations.
One such company is Korindo Group, a Korean-Indonesian conglomerate and Papua’s largest palm oil company. In 2013, Korindo began its aggressive clearing of tropical lowland forests for oil palm plantations in Papua.
The massive deforestation and illegal burning of pristine rainforests by Korindo was uncovered in a recent investigative report by global environmental organization Mighty, Indonesian humanitarian organizations SKP-KAMe Merauke and PUSAKA, Transport & Environment, Rainforest Foundation Norway and the Korean Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM).
In total, Korindo has cleared more than 50,000 hectares of tropical lowland forest in Papua and North Maluku, an area approximately the size of Seoul. Since 2013 alone, it has cleared 30,000 ha of forest in the two provinces, 12,000 ha of which were primary forests.
“The extent of Korindo’s clearing of Indonesia’s pristine rainforest is downright tragic,” said Bustar Maitar, Southeast Asia director for Mighty.
According to the report, slashand-burn practices were apparent as there were no less than 894 hotspots recorded within the Korindo subsidiary company’s concession boundaries from 2013 to 2015.
Korindo was clearing forest and land in two concession areas in 2013, in three concessions in 2014 and in four concessions in 2015, the report said.
“What’s shocking is Korindo’s systematic use of fires to clear land for its plantations. Not only is this illegal, but these fires were also a major contributor to last year’s haze crisis,” Bustar said.
According to the report, Korindo had been able to get away with systematic clearing and burning for oil palm plantations with almost no accountability because Papua is a remote province with restricted access for media and civil society.
Furthermore, local indigenous groups have little access to media for reporting illegal practices, and Korindo is well connected with the local armed forces.
Last year, the seventeenth regional military command (Kodam XVII) Cenderawasih received two units of excavators to help the military open up agricultural lands in Merauke regency, Papua, from Korindo, according to media reports.
Therefore, the extensive satellite, photographic and video evidence collected from the field investigation is extremely rare and difficult to obtain.
Furthermore, the government had been focusing its effort on preventing and extinguishing forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, thus largely neglecting Papua, despite the fact that it hosts the largest area of previously untouched primary tropical rainforests in Indonesia.
“We will check everything back because last year, we focused on fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, especially in peat areas,” the Environment and Forestry Ministry law enforcement director-general, Rasio Ridho Sani, said when asked if the government was aware of Korindo’s alleged crimes.
The report also contained details of human rights abuses allegedly faced by the company’s workers. In 2013, an employee of Korindo’s PT Dongin Prabhawa was arrested and allegedly tortured by a member of the armed forces.
Currently, 75,000 ha of untouched forest remain in Korindo’s palm oil concessions that are at imminent risk of destruction.
The company denied the allegations of slash-and-burn practices.
“Our hypothesis is that indigenous people who have access to our concessions have caused the fires to hunt wild animals living in the forests,” the company said in an official statement.