Sinar Mas a grave threat to the forests and peatlands of Indonesia

Greenpeace calls on international palm oil buyers and RSPO to take action

Feature story - November 17, 2008
Greenpeace Southeast Asia today accused Sinar Mas, Indonesia’s largest palm oil company, of endangering the integrity and biodiversity of the Danau (Lake) Sentarum National Park, a wetland site in West Kalimantan, protected under the international Ramsar convention, by continued deforestation in the immediate vicinity of the park, to expand their palm oil plantations.

Semitau,West Kalimantan, Indonesia. – Location land clearing of KPC (KPC - PT Kartika Prima Citra )

Greenpeace Southeast Asia is calling upon international buyers of palm oil to cancel contracts with Sinar Mas and for the industry body Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) (1) to no longer accept Sinar Mas as a member.

According to media reports (2), in August 2008, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry ordered the local authority (Bupati) to revoke the permits of 12 palm oil companies - seven of which are owned by Sinar Mas - operating around the Lake Sentarum National Park, as they breached Indonesian conservation and biological diversity laws (3). Despite this, Greenpeace South East Asia revealed today that Sinar Mas continues to clear the forest, with disregard for Indonesia's laws and the integrity of the National Park. Sinar Mas' concessions around Danau Sentarum are forested to a large extent, including peat land forests, and their destruction would contribute significantly to climate change.

"Last week Greenpeace activists took direct action to prevent loading of  Sinar Mas palm oil for export to Europe. This is because we have discovered Sinar Mas is destroying forest throughout Indonesia; in Papua, in the Riau Province of Sumatra and in Kalimantan." said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest Campaigner.

"Palm oil buyers must cancel contracts with Sinar Mas unless they stop deforestation for palm oil expansion. Tomorrow, the palm oil industry will come together in Bali for the sixth annual global Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil meeting. They must stop member companies like Sinar Mas destroying forests and peatlands or kick them out." he added.

Lake Sentarum, one of Southeast Asia's largest wetlands, is located in the Kapuas River Basin of West Kalimantan. The National Park has a total area of 132.000 hectares, encompassing the lake, the surrounding wetlands and rainforest, and was designated a Ramsar site in 1994. It is home to Borneo's largest inland population of the proboscis monkey, as well as orangutan, two types of crocodile, the clouded leopard, and some peculiar and endemic species of plant.

In 2008, Sinar Mas branded itself 'No. 1' in Indonesia for having the largest area of oil palm plantations and has aggressive expansion plans. An internal company presentation obtained by Greenpeace Southeast Asia indicates that the company wants to develop up to 2.8 million ha for palm oil in Papua alone.  Most of this will involve clearing forest, to a large extent on peat lands and opening up intact forest landscapes.  Sinar Mas supplies palm oil to Nestlé, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Henkel, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Burger King, Danone, Aarhus Karlshamn, Cargill and many others.

"Next month at the global climate talks in Poznan, Poland, world governments will reconvene to agree to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must live up to his commitment of reducing his nation's greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and declare a moratorium on forest conversion now, for the sake of the climate, biodiversity and forest dependent peoples." said Shailendra Yashwant, Campaign Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Greenpeace is calling on the Indonesian government to implement an immediate moratorium on all forest conversion, including expansion of oil palm plantations, industrial logging, and other drivers of deforestation. Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza, embarked on the Indonesian leg of its "Forests for Climate" ship tour in Jayapura, Papua on 6 October, to shine the spotlight on the rampant destruction of the Paradise Forests - the last remaining ancient forests of Southeast Asia.

(1) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an association created by organisations related in various chains of the palm oil supply chain. Their objective is to ³promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through co-operation within the supply chain and open dialogue with its stakeholders. (2) "Ministry of Forestry Urge Permit Oil Palm Revoked", Sinar Harapan Aug 08, 2008 page 11 or ; accessed Nov 15, 2008. (3) Letter from the Head of Danau Sentarum National Park to the Director of Area Conservation Directorate General of PHKA (Perlindungan Hutan dan Konservasi Alam or Forest Protection and Nature Conservation) on May 27, 2008. (4) Indonesia's Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from destroyed or degraded peatlands alone are around 1.8 gigatonnes of CO2 per year, equivalent to 4% of the world's entire greenhouse gas emissions. (5) For further reading, please visit: Giesen, W. and Aglionby, J. (2000) Introduction to Danau Sentarum National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Borneo Research Bulletin, Annual.;col1

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