Eastern Indonesia’s protected forests are among the latest to be targeted to satisfy a global obsession with palm oil.
AS THE MOST IN-DEMAND VEGETABLE oil, palm oil drives deforestation around the world. Globally, plantations total more than 27 million hectares, an area the size of New Zealand. For years, Indonesia has been the largest exporter, and it is now turning its attention to the province of Papua, home to about a third of Indonesia’s intact forests.
Papua is the country’s large stand easternmost province, home to many rich tribal cultures. But around 4,000 hectares of rainforest were cleared in the PT Megakarya Jaya (PT MJR) concession in Boven Digoel between May 2015 and April 2017, according to a Greenpeace investigation released this April. PT MJR is a subsidiary of the Yemeni-owned Hayel Saeed Anam Group (HSA), which sells palm oil to household names like Mars, PepsiCo, Unilever and Nestle.
Some of this documented forest clearing was in peatland areas that were zoned for protection by the government in response to a major forest fire in 2015. A Presidential Regulation of December 2016 extended a 2011 moratorium on forestry concessions, preventing clearance even on concessions already issued.
Until recently, Papua has been spared the rapid deforestation seen in the iconic forests of Borneo and Sumatra. From 2011 to 2017 however, 382,272 hectares of land in Papua and West Papua provinces were lost to palm oil.
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September - October 2018