‘Zero-deforestation’ paper giant APRIL justifies clearing of Sumatran peatland

JAKARTA — Activists have slammed one of the world’s biggest pulp and paper companies for clearing peatland in Indonesia despite its zero-deforestation pledge. They say Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) should have restored the previously burned area instead of cultivating it. The peat clearing, allegedly done by APRIL mill operator and subsidiary PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), was first reported by villagers in Indonesia’s Riau province, on the island of Sumatra, to NGOs operating in the region in July 2020. One of those NGOs, Jikalahari, launched an investigation by deploying a team to do a ground check. The team found RAPP had cleared areas where the peat layer was more than 3 meters (10 feet) deep. These areas of deep peat are supposed to be protected, but RAPP was found to have cleared them using heavy equipment in order to start planting acacia trees, the main pulpwood crop. The company reportedly also cleared oil palm crops planted by villagers in the area. Based on satellite images, Jikalahari found a total of 675 hectares (1,668 acres) cleared by the company, parts of which had been burned in forest fires in 2016. That would have made them priority areas for restoration under a government program. RAPP’s concession in the area includes 699 hectares (1,727 acres) that overlaps onto priority peat restoration area; a tenth of that area has already been cleared by the company, according to Jikalahari. Jikalahari’s investigators also found construction of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of…This article was originally published on Mongabay
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