Deforestation and Exploitation in Papua's Plantations Boom

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11.11.2009, 03:30:5811.11.09
EI PRESS/SOCIAL MEDIA RELEASE -- forwarded by Ecological Internet
This represents a major escalation of the oil palm threat to the Earth's
rainforests & climate. EI campaign coming soon! gb

Up for Grabs: Deforestation and Exploitation in Papua's Plantations Boom
Massive Land Grab for Plantations in Papua Threatens Vital Forests and
Exploits Local Communities
November 10, 2009


By Environmental Investigation Agency and Telepak (contacts below)
For immediate release

Up for Grabs: Deforestation and Exploitation in Papua's Plantations Boom
PDF File [1.45 MB] DOWNLOAD:

10th November 2009, Jakarta: - The planned expansion of plantations in
the Papuan provinces of Indonesia should be immediately suspended and
reviewed amid concerns over massive deforestation and widespread
exploitation of local communities, environmentalists warned today.

A new report released by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
and Telapak ? entitled ?Up for Grabs? ? exposes how five million
hectares of land, most of it forested, is being targeted in Papua by
powerful companies seeking to cash in on projected demand for biofuels,
derived from crops such as oil palm, and other commodities. This land
grab is provoking conflicts with local communities and threatens the
third largest area of remaining tropical forests on Earth.

Field investigations carried out by EIA/Telapak at seven locations in
Papua and West Papua Provinces during 2009 reveal a stark picture of
government condoned exploitation of traditional landowners, many of whom
are being enticed, tricked and sometimes coerced into releasing large
swathes of forested land for plantations on the basis of unfulfilled
promises of development benefits such as improved transport, schooling,
and housing.

In one case EIA/Telapak encountered a four year old boy, son of a local
landowner, who had to sign a contract so that the plantation company
could ensure control of the land for decades.

The new report documents widespread dissatisfaction among local
communities persuaded to release land for conversion to oil palm
plantations. The rate of compensation encountered is shockingly low ?
the best price paid was $45 per hectare for a 35-year lease, while the
worst rate was $1.5 per hectare. EIA/Telapak also found companies
clearing forest for plantations illegally before the necessary permits
had been obtained, with full government knowledge.

Hapsoro of Telapak said: ?Companies are tricking Papuans into giving up
their land for oil palm plantations based on empty promises about their
future welfare. This is all happening with the backing of the government
in the name of development.?

The plantations boom in Papua is being driven by a raft of government
policies promoting the development of biofuels, principally oil palm,
yet management of the sector is chaotic and non-transparent. The
government intends to expand the area under oil palm cultivation from
six million hectares to 20 million hectares. Much of this massive growth
is planned in Papua because the forests of Sumatra and Kalimantan are
already largely saturated with plantations. Indonesia became the world?s
biggest producer of palm oil in 2007.

As well as attracting major Indonesian companies, the lure of cheap land
for plantations, coupled with substantial amounts of valuable timber
from clearing forests, overseas investors are moving into Papua.
EIA/Telapak uncovered a Hong Kong-based company registered in an
offshore tax haven obtaining over 300,000 hectares of heavily forested
land in southern Papua. In its publicity the company claims it will
?improve? the forest by felling 200,000 hectares and replacing it with
oil palm to supply biofuels to industrialised countries seeking to
reduce carbon emissions.

As the crucial Copenhagen climate meeting approaches, the consequences
of deforesting large swathes of Papua for conversion to plantations are
clearly negative. Scientific research carried out in Indonesia shows
that replacing intact or logged-over forest with oil palm for biofuels
has an adverse impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Jago Wadley, Senior Forest Campaigner at EIA said: ?Indonesia?s climate
change council recognises deforestation must be curbed if the country is
to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The government has also claimed
biofuels will not mean deforestation. Yet EIA/Telapak investigations
have found massive deforestation in Papua is being driven by national
and international demand for biofuels in the name of climate change.
With Indonesia already the world?s third largest carbon emitter due to
its rapid forest loss, this is policy incoherence of the highest order.?

EIA/Telapak is calling for the Indonesian government to suspend any
further award of plantation licenses in Papua until strong safeguards to
support the rights of local communities and protect forests are put in
place. It is also calling for the international community to address the
role played by consumption of plantation commodities and timber as a key
driver of deforestation.

--- ENDS ---

Video and still images also available on request. Full version of the
report ?Up for Grabs? available at and

For further information, please contact:

? Jago Wadley, EIA: +62 813 86621940 (mobile)
? Hapsoro, Telapak: +62 815 85719872 (mobile)
Email: . ?/more

Editor?s Notes:

? The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is an independent
environmental non-profit group based in London and Washington DC. More
information at
? Telapak is an independent environmental organization based in Bogor,
Indonesia. More information at
? Papua and West Papua hold the largest remaining areas of forest in
Indonesia, following a decade of destructive and illegal exploitation
elsewhere in the country.

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