Indonesia’s Environment Ministry to sue APP, APRIL in $225B illegal logging case

Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment is planning to sue 14 pulp and paper companies for illegally logging forests in Riau Province on the island of Sumatra, reports Tempo. 12 of the 14 companies are linked to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), pulp and paper giants that have been heavily criticized by environmentalists for destroying rainforests and peatlands that serve as critical habitat for endangered tigers, elephants, and orangutans.

According to Tempo, the Ministry of Environment is preparing a civil suit against companies named in a 2007 illegal logging case that was closed in late 2008 under pressure from officials with the National Police. Damages in the case are estimated at 2,067 trillion rupiah ($225 billion) based on figures from the Judicial Mafia Eradication Task Force. The value of illegally logged timber represents only 4 percent of damages, the balance — 1,994 trillion rupiah — is for “ecological losses”, including carbon emissions, degradation of water sources and functions, erosion and soil damage, and biodiversity loss.

Concessions held by affiliates of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) in Riau. Image courtesy of Eyes on the Forest.

The Judicial Mafia Eradication Task Force last year urged the police to reopen the investigation, but its plea was ignored by the National Police Chief, the Attorney General, and the Environment Ministry until after the task force’s charter expired December 31, 2011. In January however, the Ministry of Environment said it was looking into the illegal logging allegations. In February, Ministry officials discussed the possibility of a lawsuit, according to Tempo.

The Ministry of Forestry is opposing the lawsuit, according to the report.

Both APRIL and APP say they respect the laws of Indonesia.

Sumatra lost 3.7 million hectares of forest between 2000 and 2009. Since 1985 the island lost half of its forest cover. The bulk of deforestation occurred in Riau and Jambi, where pulp and paper production has expanded the fastest.

SOURCE: Jajang Jamaludin. Going After the Big 14. Tempo Magazine. 22 April 2012.


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