S. Korean com­pany ac­cused of de­for­esta­tion in Pa­pua

The Jakarta Post - - NATIONAL - Hans Ni­cholas Jong

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.

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