Korean firm blamed over fires

Too little is done to protect Indonesia’s rainforest. Source: Flickr

Video has emerged of a Korean palm oil company allegedly illegally burning vast areas of eastern Indonesian rainforest on land it holds concessions.

Major palm-oil trading producers, including Wilmar, Musim Mas and IOI, have stopped using Korindo palm oil.

Korindo’s apparent deforestation in Papua province and North Maluku threatens to destroy some of the last habitats for several birds of paradise, large cassowary birds and the tree kangaroo, according to environmental alliance Mighty’s report.

It said Korindo had cleared more than 50,000 hectares of tropical lowland forests in Papua and North Maluku since 2008 and “makes little effort to identify and preserve conservation areas”.

The group used drones, remote sensors, satellites and photography to prove that Korindo was flouting the Indonesian no-burning laws and violating responsible sourcing requirements, Mighty said.

Bustar Maitar, Mighty’s representative in Papua, said: “Korindo is clear-cutting forests and then starting fires to clear the land of remaining biomass. That is forbidden by Indonesia’s regulations but during last year’s forest fires, most of the blazes in the Papua region happened in Korindo’s concessions.

“There are a lot of animal species and flora here that haven’t even been discovered yet,” Maitar added. “If these kinds of land clearing activities continue, they may never be.”

Koh Gyeong Min, Korindo’s sustainability chief, denied the claims. “It is not true, actually. We followed all of the Indonesian regulations and acquired all the proper licences from the government for all areas of operation within our group,” he said. “Do the local NGOs or residents have any evidence about our company that they have brought to the Indonesian government or the local courts? As far as I know there have been no cases of that.”

Indonesia’s burning season is just beginning. With fires on Sumatra and in Kalimantan affecting Malaysia and Singapore.

More than 3,000 Indonesian hotspots have been detected with Greenpeace maps of Riau and West Kalimantan showing that many fires are taking place on industrial plantation concessions in the same areas as last year.

Last year’s fires are thought likely to have contributed to more than 100,000 premature deaths and to have emitted more CO2 than the UK that year.

A spokeswoman for Musim Mas said the firm wanted Korindo to adopt a “No deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy. “During this period we will continue to stop buying the palm oil temporarily and monitor Korindo’s progress,” the representative said.