Indonesian pulp and paper giant Toba Pulp Lestari has been operating recklessly in North Sumatra for years. The company's mill has been poisoning communities and disrupting life and livelihoods for the local people who call this area home. The mill, and it’s operators, are responsible for horrific land conflicts between the company and villagers who hold traditional land rights to the company’s concessions.
These communities, whose land is protected by customary rights under Indonesian law, rely on these forests for their life and livelihoods. As reported by RAN’s on-the-ground partner, Kelompok Studi dan Pengembangan Prakarsa Masyarakat, well over 17,000 hectares of natural forest have been destroyed, impacting or displacing over 13,000 Indigenous people.
These communities are fighting back, and at least 59 activists have been arrested for resisting Toba Pulp Lestari’s continued expansion and destruction. In the past few years, land conflict has only escalated between villagers and Toba Pulp Lestari employees over the forest area. Meetings with government representatives and Toba Pulp Lestari management have brought no results, and local villagers have resorted to protests and blockades of company operations in order to protect the forests.
The behavior of Toba Pulp Lestari employees shows clear disregard for the livelihoods of local people. In February 2013, local farmers from Pandumaan and Sipituhuta Villages caught Toba Pulp Lestari employees entering their forest areas and cutting down frankincense trees. Instead of apprehending those causing the destruction, resulting clashes between farmers and the employees led to the arrests of 31 farmers.
The harvest of frankincense is essential to the local economy. These communities, who have farmed this land for generations, extract the frankincense without destroying the trees in order to maintain the health of the forest and keep this vital source of income intact for future generations. When the forests are wiped out for pulp plantations, Toba Pulp Lestari destroys not only the livelihoods of the community, their childrens’ livelihoods, and the ecosystem, but it destroys their culture as well.
Local communities have opposed the mill since it began operations in North Sumatra in 1989 due to the rainforest destruction, land grabbing and toxics pollution central to the company’s business model. In 1990, 10 elderly women from Sugapa Village were arrested for pulling up and destroying eucalyptus plantings on their traditional land. Protests by the local community escalated in 1998 and temporarily shut down the mill. But in recent years, the company has changed its name from PT Inti Indorayon Utama to PT Toba Pulp Lestari and reopened the mill; it is now in the process of expanding its destructive operations further into pristine rainforest. Along with name changes, the company has changed affiliations multiple times in order to hide its destruction. The company was formerly affiliated with pulp and paper giant, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) and its parent Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), and is still controlled by notorious Indonesian business tycoon Sukanto Tanoto through holding companies.
This may seem like a conflict far away from those of us in the Americas, Europe, or Australia, but it’s closer than one would think. A wide variety of consumer products contain pulp from rainforests like those in North Sumatra, including paper, food, cosmetics, household goods—even clothing. This pulp, and the conflict that produced it, is sold on store shelves in your neighborhood - unmarked and unidentifiable.
Unless Toba Pulp Lestari respects the rights of the Indigenous people, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), conflicts will only continue. And while Indonesia’s Constitutional Court has acknowledged the customary forest rights of the communities, Toba Pulp Lestari’s concessions and operations continue to undermine the ability of local people to access and manage their own forests.
We plan to keep you up to date on this conflict and bring more information continue to explore and expose the pulp supply chains threatening global rainforests.... stay tuned.
//www.youtube.com/embed/J7yt54MQleEClearWater began with a big goal: provide safe, sustainable access to clean water for every Indigenous family in the region, whose ancestral waterways have been poisoned by oil production and ensuing industrialization. In just two years, ClearWater has installed more than 500 family-sized rainwater harvesting and filtration systems that serve thousands of people in communities that have long suffered an epidemic of cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses that numerous health studies in the region blame on a lack of access to safe sources of water for drinking, bathing, and cooking. Our efforts have been able to make this impact because, from the beginning, ClearWater has been a collaborative partnership between the five indigenous nationalities here—the Cofan, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa, and Waorani—and international supporters, such as water engineers, humanitarians, activists, and philanthropists. ClearWater believes in collaborative, integrative, community-led solutions, where someone like Emergildo is coordinating amongst the different Indigenous nationalities to install new water systems, local youth are using GPS to map their biological and cultural resources, and frontline leaders are learning new media techniques to broadcast their concerns to the world. Clean water, health, and dignity. From this foundation, Emergildo and the Indigenous people of Ecuador's northern Amazon are building a movement for rainforest protection and cultural survival. I’m proud that Rainforest Action Network is a founding partner in this project, and I hope you’ll join us, too. Explore ClearWater's impact by navigating around this cutting-edge interactive map designed by another Amazon Watch family member, Gregor MacLennan, now Digital Democracy's Program Director. Learn more about ClearWater on our website or find us on Facebook and Twitter.
|Han Shan is an Amazon Watch Advisory Board Member.|
//www.youtube.com/embed/Be9XncS8tiANow, I hear some of you babbos got it in your heads to call on the U.S. Senate to investigate or some such garbage and try to put a stop to this. That ain't gonna work. But go ahead and try and see what Chevron has to say about you and your 36 environmental, human rights and corporate accountability groups getting involved. You're just asking for us to label you as "co-conspirators" and sue your asses under RICO, too! See, RICO ain't just some law to go after the mob, it's the wave of the future. Thanks to RICO, anyone, and I DO MEAN ANYONE who speaks up about Chevron's... ahhh... problems in Ecuador is a "co-conspirator" in the RICO world. That means we can drag yous all to court, subpoena all your emails and documents, and force you to shell out boatloads of cash to lawyers just to defend yourselves. And your reputation? Fuggetaboutit! See we got enough cash to crush your reputations. We'll just call all your friends and tell ‘em you're extortionists. You guys already gotta ask people for money just to stay afloat, so who's gonna give it to ya if we make you look like crooks? So be smart. Keep quiet and let Chevron do its thing. Oh, and that goes for all of yous activist types and do-good lawyers. If you think big energy companies are gonna let you organize people who got a beef with fracking and new pipelines – think again. We got enough legal muscle and friendly judges out there to go after anyone who does anything to threaten our bottom line. So if you go tellin' people not to buy our products and instead get some organic-vegan-cotton throw pillow or some such tree-hugging junk, well then you're conspiring to cost us money. And THAT is a RICO crime, got it? If you still don't get the message, watch my little video and you'll learn real fast. See, this ain't gonna end with Chevron. Once we get away with charging our own victims in Ecuador as crooks, there's no limit to who we can go after. Freedom of speech don't mean you can say things we don't like – you've been warned. Donny Rico, out!
//www.youtube.com/embed/uozNAWnuqPU?rel=0&vq=hd720Please take action now to protect the extraordinary Leuser Ecosystem forever! You can read more from Tezar below: Hello, My name is Tezar Pahlevie. This year I was honored by winning the 2013 GRASP Conservation award for my team’s work restoring rainforests damaged by illegal palm oil plantations, but now, a dangerous push from palm oil companies could see all our hard work undone. I write from my home in Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, because the people and the place I love most are in danger and I urgently need support from people around the world to save them. Please join me in asking the governor of Aceh to protect the world class Leuser Ecosystem by nominating it as a new UNESCO World Heritage site. This is a really scary time for me, because the governor of Aceh has on his desk a disastrous plan that would remove crucial protections from the Leuser Ecosystem, opening up huge areas of some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests to major industrial development. This new plan could be signed by the governor at any time. The six million acre Leuser Ecosystem is home to the densest population of orangutans remaining anywhere and it is the only place where orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos and sun bears live in the same forest together.Nearly four million people depend on the rainforests of the Leuser Ecosytem to provide them with clean water for drinking, irrigation and food production. I am really sad and frustrated because every day and every month I see the destruction of the forests around my home. We in Aceh have experienced the dangerous floods that come after the logging and destroy people’s homes, livelihoods and in some cases, takes the lives of our friends or family. Witnessing all this destruction breaks my heart. We have a different vision for Aceh. We must protect the Leuser Ecosystem and the people who rely on it. The Aceh people have long fought to protect these forests because they provide us with clean water, food and are important for the next generation. It is urgent that the governor of Aceh hears from you now. Just recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identified the Leuser Ecosystem as one of the world’s foremost “irreplaceable areas” that must be protected to preserve biodiversity. I stand with scientists from across the world who are right now calling on the governor of Aceh to protect our forests by nominating the region to become a new UNESCO World Heritage site. It gives me hope that by people across the world calling on the governor, he will listen to the people instead of the companies that want to destroy our forests, and work to find a balance that will protect the forests and the livelihoods of Aceh’s people. Please take action today to automatically send a fax to Governor Dr. Zaini Abdullah asking him to listen to the traditional wisdom of Aceh’s people by supporting the nomination of the Leuser Ecosystem as a new UNESCO World Heritage site. Semangat - keep the spirit, Tezar Pahlevie Conservationist and 2013 GRASP Conservation Award Winner
Every day the rainforests that endangered Borneo Orangutans depend on for their survival are destroyed to make way for palm plantations.
Palm oil companies like PT Bumitama Gunajaya Agro (PT BGA), a subsidiary of Bumitama Agri Ltd, send in bulldozers to clear the forest so they can plant palm trees. Sometimes individual orangutans are hurt, captured and sold, or shot and killed. Thankfully, some are found and saved by trained orangutan rescue teams.
This is a photo essay of an orangutan rescue in an area being cleared by PT BGA in West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.
"We were asked by the local forestry department to assist in the rescue of some orangutans found in a palm plantation area in Ketapang while the land clearing was taking place," says Karmele Llano Sánchez, BVSc, MSc, Executive Director, Yayasan IAR Indonesia. "We deployed our team and found a number of orangutans were stranded, starving and in need of immediate medical attention. This orangutan rescue is an example of the rescues that our teams are frequently doing in areas where palm oil companies are clearing forests to make way for new palm oil plantations "
WARNING: Some of these pictures are fairly graphic and might be hard to look at. The orangutan is stunned though, not dead. Still, these photos tell a story that is at once tragic and uplifting.
We are witnessing the last stand for the orangutan. Their fate is in the palm of our hands.
Make a stand for the orangutan by joining RAN's Palm Oil Action Team.
August 19th is World Orangutan Day. Show your support for the orangutan rescue teams by attending the World Orangutan Event on Facebook.