One million hectares of oil palm “beyond effective control by government” in Indonesian province


Land cleared for palm oil crops in Indonesia. Photo: Mongabay

Some one million hectares of oil palm plantations are illegal in the Indonesian province of Riau, according to a senior official.

Wiratno, Director General of Ecosystem and Natural Resources Conservation of the Environment and Forestry Ministry, told a seminar that the plantations were occupying the ‘forest estate’ without permission of the central government.

“Generally, they are located in state forest areas beyond effective coverage of control by government,” he said.

Wiratno did not say if any legal action had been taken against the illegal oil palm plantations, according to an Antara News report on the seminar, which concerned the role of the private sector in tiger conservation.

The statement builds on an analysis by a Riau NGO coalition last year. Using desk-based research and field visits, the coalition assessed 26 oil palm plantations covering more than 100,000 hectares, and found that the majority had been exploited in “legally questionable” ways.

In a statement [Indonesian], Riko Kurniawan, Executive Director of WALHI Riau, a member of the coalition, said that it was “incredible to see” that many companies continued to operate, in spite of findings by a provincialparliamentary committee that hundreds of companies were acting illegally.

Riau is the Indonesian province most heavily targeted by the expansion of monoculture plantations, both for timber species and palm oil. 

As of 2010, oil palm covered almost two million hectares of the province, more than a fifth of its land area.

It also has large areas of deep peat swamps, which produce significant greenhouse gases when drained for plantation expansion and become highly combustible. 

Riau is regularly one of the major sites of Indonesia’s annual forest fires.

The illegal occupation of the ‘forest estate’ – the area designated as under the control of the Ministry of Environmental and Forestry, not necessarily reflecting the presence of forests – is rooted in a long-running dispute over the zoning plan for the province between the provincial and central governments.

More from Illegal Deforestation Monitor

The Carbon Lottery /  Europe blind to potentially huge Brazilian beef carbon footprints

Continue reading
Tanah Merah / Sawmill legality certificate revoked in forgery fiasco at heart of Papua oil palm mega-project 

Continue reading
Covid-19 / Pandemic compounds local ire against palm oil firms in West Africa

Continue reading
ISPO / Indonesia's recent “reform” of palm oil sustainability scheme criticised for threatening forests and human rights

Continue reading
UK military / Brazil beef supplier used by Ministry of Defence buys from farmers guilty of illegal deforestation, fires and fraud

Continue reading
Cameroon / Local women fight back against controversial palm oil, rubber firms accused of destroying community way of life 

Continue reading
Mexico / Decline of monarch butterflies shows need for greater forest protections

Continue reading
Cocoa / New report emphasises threats major firms face in not having a full picture of their supply chains

Continue reading
Colniza massacre / Repórter Brasil investigation reveals links between JBS and Marfrig and  farmer accused of brutal 2017 killings

Continue reading
Tanah Merah / Auditor kayu Indonesia akan menyelidiki tuduhan izin-izin palsu bagi kayu senilai $6Milyar

Continue reading

Stay up to date with all Earthsight news & updates

Receive email updates for the latest news and insights from Earthsight and be among the first to read our new investigations.

We keep your data secure and don’t share anything with third parties. Read full terms.