Riau network urges government to prosecute forest encroachment


Land cleared for palm plantations in Indonesia. Photo: Mongabay

Analysis of plantations in Riau Province, Indonesia, suggests that the majority of oil palm plantations are operating without permission from the Ministry and Environment and Forestry.

The NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest assessed a sample of plantations through desk-based research and field studies, and arrived at the conclusion that more than 100,000 hectares of forest and land 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 provincial parliamentary committee that hundreds of companies were acting illegally.

The coalition has called on the Ministry to cancel a decree, issued in 2014, that it says has retrospectively legalised companies that had occupied the “forest zone” illegally, by changing the designation of areas that had been encroached upon by plantations.

“This cannot be allowed,” said Riko. “We ask the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to investigate this corrupt practice, and cancel the Ministerial Decree.”

The coalition has urged the Ministry and Corruption Eradication Commission to prosecute companies operating illegally, and also urged the National Land Agency to conduct an evaluation of concessions issued by the District Land Office in forest areas.

Eyes on the Forest’s analysis suggests that several major plantation companies with advanced sustainability policies, and palm oil entering global trade, are among those violating the law in Riau.

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