February 25, 2020

Palm oil concessions home to rich biodiversity

JAKARTA ( - President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, in his order for a sustainable palm oil action plan which was released in November last year, called, among other things, for the monitoring and evaluation of biodiversity management in existing palm oil concessions located in 26 Indonesian palm oil producing provinces.

The President’s order is very relevant considering that many of these existing palm oil concessions still boast great biodiversity due to the palm oil companies concerned fulfilling legal compliance as well as their own sustainability policies. 

Most of the biodiversity in Indonesia is found in primary forests and peatlands spanning an area of more than 66 million hectares, larger than France, which was incorporated into the permanent moratorium map in August last year, as previously explained by Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya (Jan 20).

“It has been proven on the ground that the existing palm oil concessions in Indonesia remain home to some extensive biodiversity. We also need to look at these facts,” Minister Nurbaya explained during a technical discussion on biodiversity and the palm oil industry at the ministry building (Feb 24).

The peat forests seen below, situated in one of PT GAMA’s West Kalimantan palm oil concessions and inhabited by the Bornean orangutan, are very rich in biodiversity.

The peat forests in this GAMA palm oil concession began to receive protection after the ministry cracked down on peat violations committed by the company. These protections subsequently became part of the company’s current sustainability policy. 

“The ministry’s law enforcement actions have been shown to have played a key role in maintaining pockets of rich biodiversity in existing palm oil concessions,” said Minister Nurbaya.

Another example of this high level of biodiversity are the remaining peat forests in two existing palm oil concessions in the  Tripa peat swamp landscape, as reported on by last month (Jan 28).

The two photos below depict parts of the remaining peat forests in these two existing palm oil concessions (PT SPS-2 and PT Kallista Alam), which also play host to the Sumatran orangutan and tiger and are being protected thanks to the ministry’s law enforcement efforts.

Corporate commitments

On various occasions Minister Nurbaya has warned palm oil companies which have declared a commitment to sustainability that not only must they carry out legal compliance, but they must also ensure their promises are kept on the ground.

“The fulfillment of legal compliance and corporate commitments certainly need to be aligned. Both are beneficial, especially when it comes to biodiversity protection efforts,” she asserted.

These commitments extend to the ongoing protection of High Conservation Value (HCV) forests in existing palm oil concessions. These areas are of huge value due to the amazing biodiversity within them.

An example of this great biodiversity are the thousands of hectares of HCV forests in the PT KAL palm oil concession, which is controlled by Jakarta-listed company ANJT.

These HCV forests, as portrayed in the following two photos, are deserving of protection as they are home to 150 Bornean orangutans.

Other efforts to maintain biodiversity include the setting aside of High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests in existing palm oil concessions.

A pioneer in the protection of HCS forests is Golden Agri Resources, a Sinarmas-owned palm oil business group since February 2011.

For instance, the HCS forests under protection in three GAR palm oil concessions in West Kalimantan, serve as a model of how the palm oil industry can play an active role in biodiversity preservation.

The two photos below demonstrate that the HCS forests in the GAR palm oil concessions contain impressive biodiversity.

A recent example of the protection of HCS forests are those scattered in two GAMA palm oil concessions (PT ACP and PT APM) located in a single landscape in Papua. Around 77% of the effective areas in these two concessions have seen their HCS forests protected.                                             

The flourishing HCS forests in these two concessions, as shown in the following two photos, back up the company’s sustainability commitment to protect them, in itself a reflection of efforts to preserve and protect biodiversity in existing palm oil concessions.

The HCS forests in an Astra palm oil concession (PT TPP) in Aceh are yet another example of the commitments made by various companies to protect biodiversity in existing palm oil concessions.

In addition to boosting biodiversity, these HCS forests also provide a habitat for the Sumatran tiger and elephant, as seen in the photos below.

There is indeed ample evidence that palm oil concessions in 26 of Indonesia’s provinces are home to a great amount of biodiversity.

As such, President Jokowi’s order for the monitoring and evaluation of biodiversity management in existing palm oil concessions was undoubtedly a shrewd move. 

“The President’s move reinforced the fact that existing palm oil concessions in Indonesia are home to some of the richest biodiversity in the world,” said Minister Nurbaya.

In her remarks at the opening session of the 9th Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity in early July last year, the minister emphasized that “Indonesia is of the view that mainstreaming biodiversity in sustainable development planning across sectors, including the public and private sectors, is key to achieving the global targets.



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