Walhi Aceh Raises Alarm Over Pollution of Singgersing River Due to Palm Oil Land Clearing

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Illustration of Palm oil plantation. Photo by: Sawit Fest 2021 / Yayan Saputra

PALMOILMAGAZINE, BANDA ACEH – Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (Walhi) Aceh expressed concern over the pollution of the Singgersing River in Subulussalam, Aceh Province. The river is contaminated with numerous pieces of wood, muddy water, and debris, likely due to land clearing activities by a palm oil company upstream.

Ahmad Salihin, the Director of Walhi Aceh, stated that the pollution has persisted for two months. “We understand that a palm oil company is clearing land to develop a plantation, which might be causing the river pollution,” Salihin, also known as Om Sol, told Antara.

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This pollution threatens the lives of villagers downstream and adversely affects local fishermen. “The fishermen cannot use traps or nets to catch fish because of the debris in the river,” he explained.

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Om Sol also mentioned that the river levels have risen during the land clearing, resulting in flooding of many villagers’ homes and farms being buried in mud, preventing them from harvesting their crops.

Team of Geographic Information System (GIS) of Walhi Aceh informed that the land clearing took place from January to April 2024. The forest canopy losses laid on about 1.767,35 hectares, including about 26 hectares in protected forests. “In 2023, the forest canopy in the region was good still,” Salihin said.

The official of Singgersing, Sub district of Sultan Daulat Subulussalam sent official documents to mayor in duty and Forestry and Environment Agency Regency of Subulussalam about the assumption of river pollution on 8 May 2024. The documents were also sent to many parties, such as, head of Sub district of Sultan Daulat, Special Regional Legislators, the local attorney, Plantation Agency, and BKSDA Aceh. But there is no follow up until now.

Om Sol emphasized that the impacts of land clearing would damage not only the quality of the river but also threaten the tourism objects in Silangit-Langit. That is why, Walhi Aceh urged the legal officers, City of Subulussalam to immediately order some officers to check the land clearing process that a palm oil company was doing.

“Palm oil plantation company should not deliver losses for others, not damage the ecosystem that should be protected, namely tourism objects. Do not get profits by damaging ecosystem, and sacrifice the villagers’ economy,” he said. (T2)

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