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Genesis Bengkulu: 20 thousand Hectares Palm Oil Plantations of Astra Agro Are Overlapping with Forest Areas

Doc. InfoSAWIT
Genesis Bengkulu: 20 thousand Hectares Palm Oil Plantations of Astra Agro Are Overlapping with Forest Areas

InfoSAWIT, JAKARTA – PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk., (AALI) is one company that operates palm oil plantations in Indonesia. Established since 1988, PT AAL telah expands its business by having the widest palm oil plantations in Sumatera, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. But its success always follows controversy about the overlapping palm oil plantations with forest areas.

Yayasan Genesis Bengkulu evaluated and found that 19 plantation concession areas of PT AAL are overlapping with forest areas with the total areas about 20.555,37 hectares. The issue seriously raised impacts for forest area functions, including protected forests, sanctuary, permanent production forests, and limited production forests.

In 2015, 14 subsidiaries of PT AAL planted palm oil for about 4.352,99 hectares in forest areas. In 2023, 10 subsidiaries of PT AAL expanded the planting for about 554 hectares. These showed that most of the planting took place in forest areas and these are illegal.

The overlapping palm oil plantations with protected forests laid on about 2071,67 hectares, with sanctuary about 52,94 hectares, with permanent production forests about 10.092,83 hectares, with limited production forest about 313,11 hectares, and with conversed production forests about 8.024,82 hectares. They develop in Riau, South Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, West Sulawesi, and Central Sulawesi Province.

Even though the forests are conversed production forests and could be conversed to be plantations if there are permits, but palm oil plantations in forest areas that PT AAL cultivated could be illegal and could not be changed to other land use (permit).

In 2023, Genesis recorded 8 subsidiaries of PT AAL continued planting (palm oil) plantations in forest areas that were not permitted, such as, protected forests, limited production forests, and permanent production forests. Besides, the organization found that deforestation took place in forest areas next to plantation concession areas of PT AAL. The total deforestation since 2015 to 2023 laid about 12.970,30 hectares.

In response to the accusation, PT AAL through its official information on Wednesday 17 April 2024 noted that the company and two subsidiaries have been operating and obeying every available regulation in Indonesia. Besides, PT AAL has published Sustainability Policy since 2015 and ever since, the company never and has no plan to get new planting.

“We are sorry for Yayasan Bengkulu Genesis for publishing the research result by Milieudefensie – Friend of The Earth (FoE) in December 2023 (page 2 on the foot note) about deforestation that had something to do with PT AAL only by using available public data without having data confirmation from PT AAL,” the information from the company, noted.

PT AAL continued that the company successfully identified limited sources of data used and explained in the research. This could deliver different output significantly from the real condition, for instance, Yayasan Genesis Bengkulu just used peta atlas nusantara and peta bidang tanah published by Spatial and Land Agency/National Land Agency as the sources of data in deforestation research that the organization accused PT AAL. Yayasan Bengkulu Genesis delivered explanation that data published by the government about business rights is not for public.

The two illustrations may seem that the organization did not apply the official business rights data/location permits of the subsidiaries of PT AAL that the Government of Indonesia published. Business rights would be the basic one to re-study overlapping areas between forests areas and business rights/palm oil plantation business permits. “Without verified business rights data/location permits, the results of the study could be wrong,” the official information published by PT AAL, noted. (T1)