From all corners of Indonesian civil society, there are calls for halting the expansion of the country’s pulp and paper industry until key reforms are put in place. The industry, primarily led by the two biggest producers APP and APRIL, has become notorious for its wholesale destruction of tropical rainforests and peatlands and its devastating impacts on local livelihoods and rights, ecosystems and species and the climate.
In early March 2010, more than 30 civil society groups and networks with over 500 NGO affiliates released an open letter to customers and investors in Indonesia’s pulp and paper sector calling on them to reject the misinformation put forward by APP and APRIL and to stop purchasing or financing them until they met a number of conditions.
Later that month, over 100 forest community leaders came together and formed the Riau Peat land Community Network (Jaringan Masyarakat Gambut Riau - JMGR) in Sumatra and met with the provinces provincial parliament to convey their vision to realise peat swamp forest ecosystem resource management in Riau which is sustainable, just and prosperous for the community.. This group, made up of over 25 communities whose ancestral lands span hundreds of thousands of acres of some of the last and highest carbon value rainforests and peatlands in Sumatra, stated that their homes and livelihoods in Riau’s peat forests must be saved from industrial development of pulp and paper and palm oil plantations.
“We are fed up with the ongoing clearing of peat swamp forests in Riau. From the start, there has never been a solution to this" said JMGR member Isnadi Esman. In contrast to pulp wood monoculture plantations from which they get no long term benefit, theses communities have a vision of realizing peat lands forest ecosystem management which prevents high CO2 emissions and isjust and prosperous for their communities..
In response to the new Network, the deputy chairperson of the Riau Regional Parliament, Taufan Antoso Yakin said that the declaration represents a pertinent suggestion. “Almost 4.6 million hectares of peat lands are being exploited in Riau by parties that have no right to do so. As a member of parliament, I will consider this issue” (link to news story translation) APP and APRIL have continue to deny their negative impacts on forest communities. APP recently stepped up its public relations efforts with a series of infomercials touting its environmental and social accomplishments and its misleading certification claims. Rivani Noor of the Indonesian national network, Community Alliance for Pulp and Paper Advocacy (CAPPA), said in response to APP’s public relations efforts, “Indonesian NGO’s and the communities we work with have experienced the devastation caused by APP firsthand, so we can’t be fooled by infomercials…We urge APP to stop the destruction of natural forests and peatlands, respect community rights and tenure, resolve existing disputes and retract misleading statements about their low carbon footprint. This is how APP can go beyond business as usual and help fulfill Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and the transition to an equitable and low-carbon future for all Indonesians.”