Big Eco Win

Big Eco Win

21 September, 2015
Palm Oil Justice
US$26M fine for palm oil operator in Indonesia's Leuser Ecosystem
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Hurrah! After an intense 3-year battle, the historical legal case for the Tripa Peat Swamps (TPS), in Indonesia's precious Leuser Ecosystem, has been won! The supreme court in Jarkata last week ordered palm oil company PT Kallista Alam to pay approximately USD $26 million for illegally burning forests within the area.  
 
Tripa is part of the 2.6 million ha protected Leuser Ecosystem, the only place in the world where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos can be found in one place. In 2013, it was also listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as one of the ‘World’s Most Irreplaceable Protected Areas’ in an article in the journal Science. The swamps are not only especially important for biodiversity, but also provide a huge carbon sink. When the forests and peat are cleared and burned, the carbon is released, and natural habitat is destroyed in huge swathes.
 
Thus, when former Governor of Aceh Province, Irwandi Yusuf, issued a 1605ha oil palm concession permit to the company in TPS several years ago, it led to an international outcry. Over 1.5 million people signed online petitions calling for greater protection of Aceh’s unique and extremely valuable forests. The petitions were further supported by some of the world’s leading scientists and conservation experts, including Rudi Putra, a leading Acehnese conservationist and Founder of the Leuser Conservation Forum (FKL).
 
According to Putra, the winning of this case was only possible due to coooperation between multiple NGOs and communities, with national and international public support and an unyielding spirit under pressure over 3 years.
 
Mr. T.M Zulfikarn, representing Indonesian NGO Yayasan Ekosistem Lestariprea, noted that even though the finding represents a win against the company's irresponsible dealings, it cannot make up for the huge devastation and terrible loss of biodiversity that the ecosystem has already suffered, adding, "From now, the most important thing for us is to monitor closely to ensure restoration is indeed carried out."
 
Although PT Kallista Alam is the company that got penalised, organisations hope that the fine will be a wake up call to other companies thinking of investing in palm oil and, particularly, the fragile Leuser Ecosystem. According to Farwize Farhan of Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh, because there are so many legal infringement around the area such as illegal roads, timber, mining and plantation concessions, extreme vigilance is still needed  to avoid emerging disaster. 
 
For now, we join these hardworking organisations in celebrating this step in the right direction.

By: Ecozine Staff
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