March 19, 2018

Remaining Sime Darby HCS forests saved from targeted clearing 

JAKARTA ( - The equivalent of at least three thousand soccer fields of high carbon stock (HCS) forests which form part of the clearing target of PT ISLM, a Sime Darby rubber concession located in Sumatra's Bangka Belitung islands, have been saved after Indonesian authorities suspended the company’s operations due to its proven involvement in forestry violations.

This makes it very clear that Sime Darby's existing sustainability policy does not stop the company from clearing HCS forests. If the government had not shut down the operations of the Malaysian giant's concession, then the clearing of HCS forests to develop new rubber plantations would have definitely gone ahead.

As reported in early August last year, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry sealed off the Sime Darby company’s operations directly on the spot because it was proven to have engaged in illegal forest clearing outside of its concession.

Before this sealing off took place, it was also reported by at the end of May last year that a joint evaluation by the ministry and the provincial forestry office had concluded that the Sime Darby company was committing forestry violations.

The clearing of HCS forests by the Sime Darby company to develop new rubber plantations led to a news report from in the fourth week of May last year based on the findings of a field check it conducted two weeks earlier.

The existing HCS forests in the Sime Darby rubber concession targeted for clearing, which are situated in a single expanse of landscape, are seen in the following USGS Landsat 8 images analyzed by the spatial team.

In a recent USGS Landsat 8 image (Mar 16) showing the latest land cover situation in the Sime Darby concession, it is also evident that the expanse of remaining HCS forests has yet to be cleared for new rubber plantation development. 

As it stands, the remaining HCS forests found in the Sime Darby concession, as depicted in the photographs below, have yet to be cleared thanks to the suspension of the concession’s operations by the ministry, rather than to any commitment made by Sime Darby itself.

Judging by the Sime Darby company’s operational target, in the absence of any law enforcement measures or independent third-party monitoring of its operations, the clearing of HCS forests would undoubtedly have proceeded, as demonstrated by the following photographs which were taken prior to the suspension of the company’s operations by the ministry.

What’s next?

A key question remains as to the fate of the HCS forests in the Sime Darby concession, especially once the company’s operational suspension is lifted, particularly given that the Malaysian company’s level of commitment is very much in doubt when it comes to preserving the leftover HCS forests in its concession.

Regular monitoring of the Sime Darby concession is therefore a must, such as that performed by the spatial team. More importantly however, Sime Darby needs to show greater respect to global palm oil supply chains which are currently striving to disengage themselves from the deforestation of HCS forests.

Essentially, Sime Darby has no other choice but to end the clearing of HCS forests in its concession as a sign of respect and support for efforts to ensure deforestation-free global supply chains.

Sime Darby must certainly avoid taking similar action to that of its fellow Malaysian company Genting Plantations (GenP), which sold its palm oil concession after making a public declaration that the vast HCS forests within it would be preserved rather than cleared for the development of new palm oil plantations.

Genting’s promise turned out to be baseless, seeing that the concession - the majority of which consists of HCS forests and plays host to the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan - is now being extensively cleared by the new owners.

If companies of Sime Darby’s stature continue to get their own hands dirty by carrying out deforestation of HCS forests, they cannot expect any plaudits for their participation in applying best practice to achieve deforestation-free global supply chains.



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