Indonesia: RAPP to Stop Development in Pulau Padang After Objections by Locals

Muhamad Al Azhari Jakarta Globe 12 Sep 16;

Jakarta. Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, or RAPP, the Indonesia-based producer of fiber, pulp and paper and a subsidiary of the April Group, agreed to cease development of a retention basin on its concession in Pulau Padang, Riau province, after a conflict with the local community.

Community members filed a report with the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) against RAPP's affiliate responsible for the basin development in Bagan Melibur village in Meranti district, fearing that it will drain the area, which is identified as peatland. Ecosystem conservation regulations forbid developments deeper than three meters.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry met with RAPP executives and BRG officials on Friday (09/09) to discuss the issue.

BRG is a new non-structural agency that reports directly to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. It is responsible for the restoration of peatland areas in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Papua and Kalimantan, which were destroyed in last year's disastrous wildfires.

RAPP has agreed to cease its activities in the disputed area.

"We agreed that RAPP must cease its activities temporarily until the hydrological mapping of the area is complete," Forestry Ministry secretary general Bambang Hendroyono told reporters in Jakarta.

He added that the mapping should be ready in three months.

RAPP president director Tony Wenas apologized on behalf of the company for operational and procedural misunderstandings with regard to the suspended development. He said RAPP remains committed to peatland restoration programs.

BRG head Nazir Foead said the agency has sent up drones to find out whether RAPP's affiliates were digging drains in the disputed area.

"We have checked with our drones; the basin's sides were not connected. It did not look like a canal," he said.

Nazir reportedly witnessed a spat between the local community and security officers in the Bagan Melibur concession on Sept. 5.

According to RAPP, the conflict was related to the retention basin it was developing to prevent wildfires in the area.

The local community has accused RAPP's affiliate of damaging peatlands, forests and traditional sago plantations. According to them, the wildfires in recent years have been caused by water drainage in the area.

The government is investigating whether RAPP's development is damaging the local ecosystem and has suggested that it be closed if conflicts with the sago farmers continue.

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