This file photo taken on August 5, 2010 during an aerial survey mission by Greenpeace shows logging concession in Jambi province located in Sumatra island. — AFP pic
BERAU, Jan 1 2014 — Deep in the forests of Borneo island, workmen from an Indonesian timber company fell a tree with a chainsaw, stick a red tag with a serial number onto it and attach a corresponding stub to the stump.
This is all part of an arduous auditing process, one of many government attempts to clamp down on illegal logging and clean up one of the country’s most corrupt and mismanaged sectors as Western countries demand proof their timber imports are legal.
Following an agreement signed with the European Union in September, Jakarta is rolling out a system under which companies holding government-issued permits are given a certificate to prove their wood is harvested within the law.
Indonesia, Asia’s leading exporter of timber to the EU, is hoping the pact will help it double timber exports to Europe to the tune of US$2 billion (RM6.56 billion) a year.
But critics say logging permits considered legal are often obtained through illegal means, and laws passed in Europe, the US and Australia to give consumers a clear conscience do little to tackle under-the-table transactions that compromise the sector.
“This system is basically asking, do you have a permit, and if you do, that box is ticked. It’s saying anything that the government does is considered legal,” said Emily Harwell, lead author of “The Dark Side of Green Growth”, a recent report by Human Rights Watch.
“It is silent on corruption.”
Indonesia is rapidly losing its forests, mostly to make way for plantations for timber products such as paper and palm oil.
According to a map released by Google Earth in November, two million hectares (20,000 km2) are lost annually, the equivalent of 10,000 football fields every day.
Bribery for permits
The forestry ministry is considered the country’s most corrupt institution, according to a 2012 survey by the country’s respected Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which found permits being bought from officials with bribe money was the most common act of corruption.
Timber companies in Indonesia, which has the world’s third-largest expanse of rainforests, are legally obliged to comply with strict guidelines before being granted permits, such as carrying out environmental impact assessments and consulting communities affected by their operations.
But permits are handed out even when such requirements are not fulfilled, critics say, while even government data shows only 16 per cent of such permits have been through the process of consulting affected communities.
Law enforcement is not only lax, it is often part of the problem. In May 2013, mid-ranking police officer Labora Sitorus was arrested for allegedly running a US$150 million illegal logging ring in the remote, eastern Papua region — seen as Indonesia’s last bastion of vast untouched rainforest.
Sitorus was caught after state financial auditors linked him to 115 containers of illegally-logged timber in Surabaya on Java island, a hub for hand-made furniture exports.
Critics like Harwell say this all means that even with Indonesia’s new Timber Legality Assurance System, the mountains of cardboard packaging, dining tables and timber flooring being sent abroad with a stamp of approval are not necessarily legal at all.
Nevertheless there are some companies striving to ensure their timber is genuinely legal.
Sumalindo Lestari Jaya — the timber company on Indonesian Borneo tagging its logs and tree stumps — has spent years engaging with the local indigenous Dayak communities affected by its 60,000-hectare (150,000-acre) concession near the city of Berau.
Sharing the wealth
The company shares the benefits of its harvests in cash handouts, school tuition for children and basic infrastructure with four of five communities affected by its operation, and involves them in operational decision-making.
“Sumalindo didn’t at first engage with the communities. But they realised that by communicating better with them, they could come up with something fair that respects everyone’s rights,” said Joko Sarjito from WWF, which facilitated the agreements.
The company exports construction timber, wood panelling and timber flooring to Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Australia and Japan, and it is hoping to qualify for a superior certificate from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which also ensures sustainability and fair trade.
“To be honest, it doesn’t really make financial sense to go for the FSC certificate. It’s about 30 per cent more expensive to produce, and the returns are only around five per cent higher,” Sumalindo board director Rudi Gunawan said.
“But we do it for our name, for pride.”
While some big companies have the funds to venture into the brave new world of clean timber, artisan furniture makers have trouble even registering as a business, a basic requirement for a certificate of legality.
“In many cases, the artisan doesn’t want to register formally. They are often asked for costly fees and they might not feel comfortable in that formalised environment,” said Agus Djalaili, technical adviser for the Multistakeholder Forestry Programme funded by Britain’s Department for International Development.
Sources in the industry said there have been several cases where artisans have simply bought certificates of legality and that the auditing process could be compromised.
The forestry ministry admits there is room for improvement in the new initiative, which is not set in stone until the agreement with the EU is ratified.
“We are still developing it and we are completing the text, so we are open to views from NGOs and we want to ensure our timber is truly legal,” said Dwi Sudharto, the ministry’s director general of processing and marketing of forest products. — AFP
Indonesia’s 2nd largest
pulp company goes green
Zubaidah Nazeer, The Straits Times/ANN, Jakarta | Business | Wed, January 29 2014
As big players in Indonesia’s forestry sector come under increasing pressure to show that they are not damaging the environment, some are pledging to change their ways. The latest to jump on the bandwagon is Indonesia’s second-largest pulp and paper company, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (April).
The Singapore-based company announced that it would stop buying materials from any suppliers found to have sourced products from high conservation value forests (HCVF), those rich in environmental, socio-economic biodiversity or landscape value.
It will also set up a committee consisting of forestry groups and business lobbies to oversee the policy.
April was accused of having fires on its land that contributed to last year’s haze but denied the charge, saying that it has a zero-burning policy.
Forestry campaigners hail the company’s move as significant, but said strict implementation will be the key to ensuring any meaningful impact.
«We are mandating our suppliers who supply wood and fibre to go through an HCVF assessment,» said April president Praveen Singhavi. «We will not buy from those who do not.»
Deforestation accounts for 70 per cent of carbon emissions in Indonesia, the world’s third-biggest emitter, according to the United Nations.
The announcement comes as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) put April’s membership on probation after it was suspended from its Forest Solutions Group. It has been given 12 months to show proof that it is changing its policies on deforestation, or face sanctions or expulsion from the group.
Tiur Rumondang, executive director of Indonesia Business Council for Sustainable Development, said: «The company has been perceived as not transparent but the WBCSD probation has pushed it towards this.»
Singhavi said that its Stakeholder Advisory Committee would include a representative from the business council and the World Wildlife Foundation, a staunch critic of its deforestation policies.
«The committee would oversee the implementation process (of this new policy). We would be providing data… and allow them to visit our areas,» he said. «We announce that kind of transparency, in terms of what we do, because we want to show to the world… there’s nothing to hide.»
It will also reforest a 20,450 hectares patch of forest in Pulau Padang, Sumatra, the last of its concession sites to be developed for plantation use. This is part of its expansion of a 10-year US$17 million forest restoration programme initiated last May, when it announced that it would reforest 20,265 hectares on Sumatra’s Kampar Peninsula.
Norway, which has been working with Indonesia in the fight against deforestation, said it welcomed the move to «involve local communities and ensure environmental integrity» of the policy.
But some critics are not convinced of the firm’s sincerity, alleging that its latest move is simply a diplomatic manoeuvre to ease pressure on it.
Greenpeace condemned the policy as a recycled one. It also slammed the policy for failing to address deforestation by other companies under its umbrella, such as Asian Agri and Toba Pulp Lestari.
When asked about this, Singhavi said: «People who say there’s nothing new, you should ask them what they have seen us do in the past and what they are seeing today.»
Comment: Indonesia’s 2nd largest pulp company goes green, is the title of the article above. But is it really the case, as Greenpeace are criticising too? Of course this is green washing as many companies around the world do. And this company is an example of deforestation criminality as well. The global «family» of deforestation criminals are increasing as capitalism is hunting for the worlds last resources. And what is Norway doing with it’s huge funding to countries like Brazil and Indonesia? Well, mostly pretending everything is fine while pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into rainforest preservation projects, without any idea of if it will work or not. Big deal!
Instead of taking the problem by it’s roots with the capitalistic system and profit maximum, the worlds political and multinational elite are together continuing business as usual. And that’s what they’re going to do until..what..? We’ll see, but meanwhile we the worlds activists can fight them!