Eliminating Illegal Palm Oil Plantations: A Critical Governance Challenge in Indonesia

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Doc. palmoilmagazine.com / The government's dedication to safeguarding the environment, eradicating environmental crimes, combatting corruption, and advocating for the welfare of its citizens seems to be lacking.

PALMOILMAGAZINE, JAKARTA – The government is directly responsible for the problematic environmental management practices. Numerous policies have been enacted to essentially legitimize unlawful activities. This is exemplified by the whitewashing of illegal palm oil plantations, which cover roughly 3.3 million hectares within the country.

The government’s dedication to safeguarding the environment, eradicating environmental crimes, combatting corruption, and advocating for the welfare of its citizens seems to be lacking. Many of the policies in place appear to shield those responsible for environmental offenses, allowing repeated transgressions by numerous corporate palm oil plantations.

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According to Greenpeace and TheTreeMap (2019) about 3.118.804 hectares palm oil plantations developed in forest regions in Indonesia. Half of the numbers belonged to 600 companies which each of them cultivated more than 10 hectares in forest regions.

Also Read : Bleaching 3,3 Million Hectare Palm Oil Plantations in Forest Areas is not A Solution

Palm oil plantations were developing in forest regions within conservation and protected forests that laid on about 90.200 hectares and 146.871 hectares. The data identified 25 big corporates of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) members. Top ten corporates that develop palm oil plantations in forest regions are Sinar Mas, Wilmar, Musim Mas, Goodhope, Citra Borneo Indah, Genting, Bumitama, Sime Darby, Perkebunan Nusantara, and Rajawali/Eagle High.

Forest Campaigner Greenpeace Indonesia, Syahrul Fitra said that the illegal plantations develop in many regions including in forest regions that function as protected and conservation ones. This happened for the bad governance, no transparency, weak law enforcement. Instead of improving the factors, the government would bleach illegal plantations.

“The policy clearly does not take partisanship to environment, indigenous people, and local people that got the impacts but would deliver profits for palm oil oligarchy in circle of power,” Fitra said as in the official statement to Palmoilmagazine.com recently.

In the context of ecology, bleaching illegal palm oil plantation in the area of Kesatuan Hidrologis Gambut (KHG) would make the fire in the forest and areas worse and so would the ecology.

Pantau Gambut (2023) identified that of 3,3 million hectares of illegal palm oil plantations that the government would bleach, 407.267,537 hectares (about 13-14%) are in KHG. 72% of the plantations in KHG to be bleached are susceptible to get fire (medium risk) and 27% are in high risk. 91,64% of concession holders should actually recover peat damage because of the fire but there was no restoration implementation in the field.

Manager Advocacy and Campaigner of Pantau Gambut, Wahyu Perdana told that according to peat monitoring finding, of 32 palm oil companies that illegally operate in KHG, only five companies operate in peat ecosystem with cultivation function; the 27 companies (84%) operate in peat ecosystem that functions as protected one. This showed the violation to Chapter 21 Government’s Regulation (GR) Number 71 / 2014 juncto GR Number 57 / 2016 about Peat Ecosystem Cultivation and Protection. This would escalate fire risks particularly in peat ecosystem.

Other issue happens with the bad practices in association with the fire that keeps happening in palm oil plantations. Data burn published by Ministry of Environment and Forestry in 2015 – 2020 that Pantau Gambut managed showed that 11 corporate groups in the bleaching scheme in KHG had burnt areas – history in the period.

“They were Best Agro Plantation with the widest burnt areas about 3.605,876 hectares; Soechi with 2.085,382 hectares; and Citra Borneo with 1.704,521 hectares,” he said. (T2)

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