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Fire Alerts on Industrial Tree Concessions show the Need for Community Engagement

Ten industrial tree concessions together had over 1,500 NASA fire alerts on their concessions in Indonesia’s dry season of 2021, analysis by Aidenvironment shows. Aidenvironment investigated all industrial tree concessions in Indonesia, to identify the companies with highest number of fire alerts. Most of the fires occurred in Kalimantan, then in Sumatra and surrounding islands, then East and West Nusa Tenggara.

Forest and peat fires are common in Indonesia, especially during the dry season, which typically runs from April to September. Sumatra, including some small islands next to Sumatra, and Kalimantan have become two perennial hotspots. Fires are linked to land development, and often exacerbated by El Niño weather patterns, which lead to drier and longer dry seasons in Indonesia. The companies with the largest number of fire alerts are shown in
Table 1.

Table 1. Top 10 Companies with Fire Alerts
1. PT Finnantara Intiga

PT Finnantara Intiga in West Kalimantan is a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). APP is Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper company. It is part of Sinar Mas, which owns several businesses, including palm oil (through SMART/Golden Agri-Resources, one of the largest palm oil companies in Indonesia), insurance and finance, property, healthcare, and telecommunication. Both APP and SMART/Golden Agri-Resources have policies to protect and conserve forests. APP’s website mentions sustainability policies, including a goal to maintain areas impacted by fires at under 2%.

There were 516 fire alerts detected inside PT Finnantara Intiga’s concession in 2021, excluding low confidence alerts. All the fires were small and scattered around the concession. Aidenvironment reached out to PT Finnantara Intiga and the company stated that fires on the concession were not started by the company as part of their operations. Instead, the fires detected within the concessions were from local people’s farms. People nearby the plantation were still practicing shifting cultivation with slash-and-burn techniques, which results in fires. PT Finnantara Intiga said that the company has a department dedicated to handling and monitoring fires.

Figure 1. NASA VIIRS Fire Alerts in PT Finnantara Intiga’s concession 2021.
2. PT Koin Nesia

PT Koin Nesia is in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara and belongs to a Korean citizen named Bae Dong Sik. PT Koin Nesia does not have a website, little is known about the company or Bae Dong Sik, and it is not known if the concession operates under any sustainability policies. No other companies are known to be related or can be grouped together with PT Koin Nesia.

There were 152 fire alerts detected in 2021. Unlike PT Finnantara Intiga’s small, scattered fires, the fires on PT Koin Nesia are large and cover wider areas. PT Koin Nesia is among the companies whose licenses were revoked by the government in the early 2022.

Figure 2. NASA VIIRS Fire Alerts in PT Koin Nesia’s concession 2021
3. PT Inhutani III (Nanga Pinoh)

In the third position is PT Inhutani III, an industrial tree plantation company belonging to the government of Indonesia. The company owns several concessions in Kalimantan. PT Inhutani III also operates two industrial tree concessions in South Kalimantan, the Pelaihari and Riam Kiwa units.

There were 119 fire alerts spreading inside the PT Inhutani III’s Nanga Pinoh industrial tree concession in West Kalimantan in 2021. Aidenvironment reached out to a representative of PT Inhutani III for comment. The company stated that they had implemented the following steps to anticipate forest fires:

  • Organised a forest fire brigade team;
  • Established the necessary facilities and supporting infrastructure for the forest fires team;
  • Conducted socialization and outreach with communities around their operations.

 

Representatives from PT Inhutani III claimed that most of the hospots on the concession originate from community land clearing activities conducted by people living in or around the concession.

Figure 3. NASA VIIRS Fire Alerts in PT Inhutani III (Nanga Pinoh)’s concession 2021
4. PT Bangun Rimba Sejahtera

Located on Bangka Island, part of Bangka Belitung islands next to Sumatra, PT Bangun Rimba Sejahtera is owned by an individual named Johan. PT Bangun Rimba Sejahtera does not appear to have an official website and there are no known sustainability policies or supply chain links.

There were 80 fire alerts detected in 2021 inside the concession. The company is also involved in a land conflict with local communities. It has been mentioned in several media articles that the conflict stems from a rejection of the concession by local residents over fears that they would lose access to their current sources of income. The local communities argued that they had managed 75% of the concession area before the company came.

5. PT Hutan Rindang Banua (part of Sinar Mas conglomerate)

PT Hutan Rindang Banua is located in South Kalimantan. The company is part of the IDX-listed PT Dian Swastatika Sentosa, which is majority-owned by Sinar Mas. On the website of PT Dian Swastatika Sentosa no sustainability policy regarding PT Hutan Rindang Banua could be found. PT Hutan Rindang Banua, cleared 960 hectares of forests for industrial trees since 2017.

In 2021, 71 fire alerts were detected inside the concession.

6. PT Inhutani V

PT Inhutani V, located in Lampung, is part of the wider Inhutani group that belongs to the Indonesian government. In 2021, 67 small scale fire alerts were detected inside the concession. The official website does not mention specific sustainability policies to prevent forest fires, but the company does have a program to work together with the local communities to prevent fires. For example, the company conducted socialisation activities with local communities to prevent and manage forest fires in March and April 2021.

7. PT Prima Bumi Sentosa

PT Prima Bumi Sentosa’s concession is located in West Kalimantan. The NASA VIIRS fire alerts show 66 fire spots in 2021 inside the concession. All of the fires are small. PT Prima Bumi Sentosa is owned by two individuals, Suparman and Ajoeb Suharlin, who also own two other industrial tree concessions in West Kalimantan: PT Mahkota Rimba Utama and PT Segah Bangun Persada. The company does not have an official website, therefore their sustainability policies are unknown. Aidenvironment reached out to the company to clarify the situation on the concession. The company clarified that they received information from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry about fires alerts in 2021, so they decided to work together with village heads on prevention measures. The fires were sometimes originating from people living around the concession opening up new farmland. Fires were also coming from deer hunters, who use fire to lure deer out of overgrown areas.

PT Prima Bumi Sentosa has a programme to strengthen cooperation with communities to prevent and manage forest fires, including trainings in cooperation with the Regional Disaster Management Agency. The company also says it has a forest fire warden group, which includes the local police chief and millitary commander. Once a hotspot is detected, the company and the fire warden group will investigate and monitor it.

8. PT Wana Hijau Pesaguan

PT Wana Hijau Pesaguan in West Kalimantan is operated by Indonesian conglomerate Djarum. Sustainability issues on Djarum’s concessions have been widely reported. The company withdrew its Forest Stewardship Council certificate after the FSC received a complaint from NGOs on Djarum’s deforestation. Aidenvironment has reported on Djarum’s deforestation of over 10,800 ha since 2016.

NASA VIIRS fire alerts show a total of 65 fire spots spreading inside the concession in 2021. According to its legal compliance division, the company has a programme dedicated to monitoring fires, including a team that conducts frequent patrolling. Djarum also explained to Aidenvironment that the company works with military officers and police to prevent fires.

9. PT Mahkota Rimba Utama

PT Mahkota Rimba Utama is under the same group company as PT Prima Bumi Sentosa. It is located in West Kalimantan. In 2021, there were 61 fire alerts detected. All were in the form of small scale fires inside the concession.

As with PT Prima Bumi Sentosa, PT Mahkota Rimba Utama has a programme to strengthen cooperation with communities to prevent and manage forest fires, including trainings in cooperation with the Regional Disaster Management Agency.

10. PT Duta Andalan Sukses

In the tenth position is PT Duta Andalan Sukses in West Kalimantan. The company is owned by two individuals, Ferdiansyah Djajadi and Yuhendra Kasmir, who also own another industrial tree concession in West Kalimantan, PT Wana Subur Persada. The company’s permit is currently being evaluated and is at risk of being revoked because of claims of lack of compliance with Indonesia’s laws. In 2019, the company was given administrative sanction due to failure to prevent and manage forest fires. In 2021, 58 fire alerts detected inside the concession. Aidenvironment has not been able to obtain clarification from the company.

Companies should engage with communities

Indonesia’s seasonal fires have become one of the country’s most pressing enviornmental issues. Aidenvironment’s analysis shows that the threat still remains, and forestry and agricultural companies must do more to prevent, monitor and stop the spread of fires. Key to this is engaging with the communities living around these concessions. Several of the companies in the top 10 claimed that fires were not being started by concession workers to clear land, but by people living inside and around their concessions and engaging in slash and burn agriculture. If fires are to be prevented, it’s imperative that action starts with local residents. As Indonesia heads into its dry season, after months of heavy rainfall and intense flooding in several forest areas, now is the time to engage woth communities. Aidenvironment will be monitoring all industrial tree concessions in Indonesia and verify fire alerts with companies.

For more information, please feel free to reach out to Chris Wiggs.

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