Six myths Indonesia's biggest forest destroyer wants you to believe

Posted by Richardg — 22 July 2014 at 1:54pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Ulet Ifansati

Pulp and paper company APRIL, along with its sister companies, is the greatest threat to the Indonesian rainforest. These amazing forests are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet - and they're vital to regulating the world's climate.

Together we can end illegal logging and the destruction of the world's forests, and protect the rights of the indigenous peoples and wildlife that depend on them. Join the movement to protect the world's rainforests.

But first, here's the six biggest porkies that APRIL are telling everyone to stop customers deserting them:

Myth #1: “APRIL is not deforesting Indonesia”

Last year APRIL’s then-public relations director was busted in an interview with The Guardian claiming that APRIL isn’t involved in deforestation (from 2.30 minutes onwards – it’s well worth a watch!). He left the company soon after, but we caught APRIL making this baffling claim in a leaked customer briefing, saying “We reforest, not deforest”.

APRIL and its sister companies in the Royal Golden Eagle group (RGE) imply that tearing down a rainforest and replacing it with a monoculture plantation is actually a good thing!

Excavators beside a canal cutting through recently deforested peatland inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province. PT RAPP is a subsidiary of APRIL, the pulp & paper division of the RGE Group. On 28 January 2014, APRIL announced that it intends to continue to use rainforest logs until at least 2020. 05/30/2014Recently deforested peatland inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) concession on Pulau Pedang, Riau Province. PT RAPP is a subsidiary of APRIL, the pulp & paper division of the RGE Group. 05/30/2014 © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace. 1°0’53″N 102°18’24″E.

Myth #2: “Sustainability is in the company’s DNA.”

In May, we visited one of RGE/APRIL’s concessions in Padang Island, Sumatra. The company has claimed to protect high conservation value forest since 2005 (here, first paragraph) – but apparently this dense natural forest on swampy deep peat didn’t meet the criteria set out in these "rigorous assessments".

APRIL refuses to make its assessments public, but it’s crystal clear they don’t include identifying and protecting forested areas like this, as our exclusive photos show.

Recent large-scale clearance of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province. PT RAPP is a subsidiary of APRIL, the pulp & paper division of the RGE Group. On 28 January 2014, APRIL announced that it intends to continue to use rainforest logs until at least 2020Recent large-scale clearance of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) concession on Pulau Pedang, Riau Province. 05/20/2014 © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace. 1°0’59″N 102°17’39″E.

Myth #3: RGE/APRIL claims its sustainable forest management policy has “strong support from external stakeholders”.

APRIL likes to pretend that WWF and even the Norwegian government are on its side – see a letter they sent to a customer below.

However WWF have actually said that APRIL’s policy “needs to be strengthened and more clearly defined”. It should “extend its commitment to the rest of the RGE group of companies” and include “a moratorium on all forest and land clearance and peat development activities”. RGE/APRIL has yet to do any of these things.

Myth #4: APRIL does not source from high conservation value (HCV) forests, as proven by peer reviewed, independent assessments.

The fact is, APRIL does not make its HCV assessments publicly available. The organization APRIL claims has peer reviewed all of them – the HCV Resource Network – told us it has done nothing of the sort. It has only peer reviewed the assessments for two concessions, neither of which are on Padang Island. 

We've also obtained confidential information (RGE/APRIL has never published information on their supply base) which showed that APRIL is supplied by approximately 50 concessions.

Canal construction through peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province. PT RAPP is a subsidiary of APRIL, the pulp & paper division of the RGE Group. On 28 January 2014, APRIL announced that it intends to continue to use rainforest logs until at least 2020. 05/20/2014Drainage of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang, Riau Province. 05/20/2014 © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace 1°1’53″N 102°17’57″E

Myth #5: Forest fires? Don’t blame us, we have a no burning policy.

APRIL says it banned burning on its concessions 20 years ago. Fine - but swampy peatland doesn’t spontaneously combust. Drained peat soil is highly flammable, and when companies like RGE/APRIL drain these areas – as can be seen in this image – they create a tinderbox.

Peat swamps hold billions of tonnes of carbon and when drained and burned, they can become disaster for the global climate.

Scorched peatland forest and young acacia plantation inside the PT Sumatra Riang Lestari (PT SRL) pulpwood concession in Rupat Island, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province. PT SRL is a supplier to APRIL, the pulp & paper division of the RGE Group. On 28 January 2014, APRIL announced its intention to continue to use rainforest logs until at least 2020. 05/20/2014Scorched peatland forest inside the PT Sumatra Riang Lestari (PT SRL) pulpwood concession in Rupat Island, in Riau Province. PT SRL is a supplier to APRIL. 05/20/2014 © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace: 1°55’8″N 101°33’49″E.

Myth # 6: Forest fires? Don’t blame us, it’s the local communities’ fault.

Indonesia suffered from an unusual peak in fire hot spots during in February and March this year, and RGE/APRIL was quick to lay the blame on local communities.

But forest fires are 3.5 times more frequent on deforested peatland than on peatland that hadn’t been cleared by unscrupulous companies like APRIL.

Clearing and draining peatland is like dousing your house in gasoline and blaming a passing smoker when it all goes up in flames.

Until APRIL and all plantation companies in the RGE Group stop the bulldozers and agree to end their deforestation, anyyone who does business with these destructive companies is contributing to one of the worst environmental crises in the world.

Let's put an end to deforestation. Join the movement to protect the rainforests.

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