JAKARTA — PT BMH, a controversial pulpwood concession controlled by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP Sinarmas), has frequently been the source of serious haze-causing peat fires. This year is no exception. This is proven by a satellite image (Nov 9) which clearly shows that peat fires in the APP concession situated in South Sumatra’s OKI regency were still burning at this time.
In August 2016, the APP company was ordered by the high court in Palembang, South Sumatra, to pay compensation for 2014’s peat fires after losing a court battle against the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry.
During the trial process, PT BMH claimed that the peat fires in its concession in 2014 took place over fewer than 10,000 hectares. This figure was rejected by the ministry which said that as much as 20,000 hectares were afflicted by these fires.
The Palembang high court, in reaching its decision, referred to the ministry’s higher figure. This year, the total extent of the burned areas in the PT BMH concession is yet to be finalized, as peat fires are ongoing according to the latest data (Nov 9) and as demonstrated in the following LandViewer images.
Responding to questions from foresthints.news, APP stated that the extent of this year’s burned areas in PT BMH does not surpass that of 2014. However, the company didn’t say in its response which figure it was referring to in this regard – its own figure or that used by the Palembang high court in its ruling.
Over 1.5 times larger than Singapore
In fact, three APP pulpwood concessions (PT BMH, PT BAP and PT SBA) located in a single peat ecosystem spanning more than half a million hectares, over 8 times the size of Singapore, were ravaged by massive peat fires in 2015.
According to data submitted by APP Sinarmas to the ministry (2016), the total area burned in 2015 in these three concessions amounted to more than 112,000 hectares, or over 1.5 times larger than Singapore. Of this figure, the area burned in the PT BMH concession exceeded 37,000 hectares, or almost 35% of the total.
However, it should be strongly underlined that APP’s data on some of the locations burned in 2015 in these three concessions indicates an area far smaller than that in the ministry’s corresponding version. The haze-causing fires still underway in the PT BMH concession are of serious concern and also underline the fact that the OKI mill still remains linked to peat fires.
Given the historical evidence that APP’s methodology – based on its spatial data – undercounts areas burned by fires, as detailed above, the extent of this year’s fires in the PT BMH concession needs to be revealed in a transparent manner after the ongoing fires in this APP concession have completely ended.