Investigation Reveals Leuser Rainforest Logging Continues Amidst Growing Global Climate Emergency

Government and corporate inaction continue despite clear breaches of logging moratorium

As the Secretary General of the United Nations recently declared, the rapidly accelerating climate crisis poses an urgent “Code red for humanity.” The message is clear and stark: to avoid mass scale human suffering and environmental collapse, it is imperative that the nations of the world turn quickly away from fossil fuels, deforestation and the further erosion of Indigenous land rights. Scientists across the planet agree that keeping the world’s remaining forests standing is an essential part of any holistic effort to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and avoid the worst consequences of climate catastrophe. And yet, in critical forest ecosystems like the Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia, primary tropical forests are still being actively cleared for palm oil production to this day. 

In the lead up to the Glasgow COP26 climate summit this November, major corporations and governments will be announcing new commitments to reduce their emissions. This investigation shows the urgent need to truly implement these commitments immediately, including with interventions to stop logging in the Leuser Ecosystem. 

In August of this year, RAN field investigators once again documented logging within the palm oil concession of plantation company PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara (PT. NYB). This is the latest investigation in a series that shows that PT. NYB is a rogue company that has persisted in destroying lowland rainforests in the Leuser Ecosystem. The lowland rainforests are a critical store of carbon and are the habitat for endangered Sumatran elephants and orangutans. 

An excavator is preparing lands for a new palm oil plantation in concession of PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara. August, 2021.

An excavator used to clear forests inside the concession of PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara. August, 2021.

Forests cleared for a new palm oil plantation by PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara. Photo taken in August 2021.  

The owner and the President Director of the plantation company––Dedy Sartika, is ultimately responsible for the destruction. Mr. Sartika is a son in law of the former acting governor of the Sumatran province of Aceh, Tarmizi Abdul Karim. Previous investigations have found that the permit for this concession was controversial, as it was granted first by Tarmizi Abdul Karim, then by the following governor of Aceh Zaini Abdullah. The issuance of the permit to PT. NYB by the former acting governor for the benefit of a member of his family creates a strong appearance of conflict of interest that merits further investigation. To our knowledge, the government of Indonesia has not initiated an investigation into this case, nor revoked this permit during its review of existing palm oil concessions. The PT. NYB case also shows that nearly 5 years after the declaration of the palm oil moratorium in Aceh by the national and provincial governments, it has not been effectively implemented inside existing palm oil concessions in the Leuser Ecosystem. 

An excavator is found clearing land for a new palm oil plantation in concession of PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara. August, 2021.  

The images below show that logging persists inside the PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara palm oil concession. Before planting industrial rows of oil palms, palm oil companies frequently hire logging crews to cut down and sell the existing rainforest as a way of generating income to offset costs of establishing the new plantation. 

Logging persists inside PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara’s concession. August  2021.

Piles of logs ready to be taken to local saw mills inside PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara’s concession. August  2021.

Machinery used to clear land inside PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara’s concession despite the government’s moratorium that prohibits land clearing inside existing palm oil concessions. August 2021. 

Brands that have been shown to drive the demand for palm oil expansion in Aceh such as Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo are fully aware that these forests keep falling. Yet they have failed to encourage PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara––a potential future supplier–– to halt forest destruction and adhere to their requirements for responsibly produced palm oil. The time is now for these brands to work alongside local governments in Aceh and Aceh Timur to halt forest destruction by PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara and to protect the High Conservation Value forests inside and surrounding its concession in the Leuser Ecosystem.