PT. Surya Panen Subur II failing to stop illegal fires and destruction of Tripa peatland

GPS: 3°46’12.65″N, 96°35’49.20″E – Clearance of the Leuser Ecosystem’s critically important Tripa peatland has continued inside the notorious PT. Surya Panen Subur II palm oil concession. In the month leading up to June 9, 2017, new peat drainage canals were built, illegal fires were lit to clear land, and a total of 24 hectares of forest were lost inside the concession. This area is considered of special importance for the needed habitat it provides to some of the highest densities of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans in the world–dubbed the “orangutan capital of the world”–as well as for its role as a global carbon sink. The destruction continues despite a governmental moratorium on forest clearance for palm oil development and new regulations that aim to protect globally important peatlands in Indonesia. Now a total of 174 hectares have been cleared inside PT. SPS II since the issuance of a June 2016 government circular letter to palm oil companies in Aceh demanding that clearance of forests stop.

Satellite imagery analysis shows forest clearance continued inside the PT. SPS II concession in the month leading up to June 9, 2017. In this period 24 hectares of forest were lost and numerous fire hotspots were identified.

Satellite monitoring also identified fire hotspots inside PT. SPS II in July, 2017.

Over 4,000 hectares of forests remain in the concession, which conservationists still consider to be vital habitat worthy of protection. The President of Indonesia has also stated that the saving of the peatlands in the Leuser Ecosystem is non-negotiable.The time is now to find solutions that protect and restore the Tripa peatland and the greater Leuser Ecosystem.

Aerial image of remaining standing forest inside the Tripa peatland of the Leuser Ecosystem.

In June 2012 PT. SPS II was convicted guilty by the Meulaboh District Court for using fire to clear land within the Tripa peatland. However, in 2016 the Indonesian Supreme Court decided that the company was not guilty. PT. SPS II is the third palm oil plantation company with a concession in Tripa that has been sued by the government for using fire to clear land.

PT. SPS II has a track record of inaction. Over the past three years, the company has not taken decisive action to stop the illegal establishment of a palm oil plantation by a rogue company within its concession boundary. PT. SPS II has also failed to hand back these forested peatlands to customary landowners and the provincial government so they can work together to ensure the long-term protection of Tripa and the development of alternative livelihoods.

This inaction is why government intervention is urgently needed to secure land rights for communities and find solutions that result in an end to forest destruction, illegal fires, plantation and canal establishment, and the loss of community access to lands, fisheries and other sources of income.

Update: Between July 16 and August 21, 2017, an additional 18 hectares were cleared inside the PT. SPS II concession despite this controversy being continually exposed by RAN. A total of 191 hectares of forest have been cleared since the June 2016 Aceh government’s circular letter.

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