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Conflicts Plantations: Two new investigative research reports from Indonesia

New research conducted by a coalition of Indonesian organisations and the Environmental Paper Network has found that the two major Indonesian paper companies, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) are involved in hundreds of conflicts with communities across the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

Conflict Plantations: Chapter 1, shows that in just five provinces of Indonesia, at least 107 villages or communities are in active conflict with APP affiliates or its suppliers, and 544 villages were identified as sites of potential conflict, covering an area of more than 2.5 million hectares.

Conflict Plantations: Chapter 2 delivers research results showing that in just five provinces of Indonesia, at least 101 villages or communities are in active conflict with affiliates of APRIL, or its suppliers, while 529 villages may have been impacted by their forestry operations, involving an area larger than one million hectares.

These new reports comes on the heels of APP and APRIL being named among the main companies responsible for the current haze crisis in Indonesia. In 2015 a similar made 19 victims and caused an estimated 500,000 cases of respiratory tract infections were reported at the time of the fires. It is estimated that the fires led to more than 100,000 premature deaths in the region. A public health study estimated that 91,600 people in Indonesia, 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore may have died prematurely in 2015 because of exposure to fine particle pollution. The economic cost of the fires was calculated at around US$16 billion (IDR 221 trillion), equivalent to 1.9 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product. The controversial expansion of pulpwood plantations in Indonesia has had vast social impacts on local communities, including land-grabbing and displacement of local populations –– sometimes involving brutal violence. Similarly, both companies has been connected to forest fire crises in the past.

“The recurrence of haze coming from forest fires in APP concessions, along with the hundreds of conflicts with communities in the areas where they operate, is all the more evidence that APP is failing to implement their policy commitments.” said, Rudiansyah, Executive Director of the Indonesia environmental group WALHI’s regional chapter in Jambi. “The findings of this research also show APRIL’s failure to maintain its sustainability commitments and challenge the company’s recent claim to have no major social or community disputes. If APRIL is serious about its commitments, it should be fully transparent, involve key stakeholders, resolve all conflicts in a participatory way.”

“This is critical information for socially and environmentally responsible companies around the world that are purchasing pulp, paper and textile fiber, “said Sergio Baffoni of the Environmental Paper Network. “Our partners have made a thoroughly researched case for global brands and potential customers to demand more transparency by APP and APRIL and the resolution of conflicts for communities in Indonesia caused by conflict plantations. “Results of the independent research by Indonesian civil society groups in Conflict Plantations Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 show that APP and APRIL are far from implementing their own commitments to resolve social conflicts.”

As both companies still maintain an opaque corporate structure, and it is not easy to understand which paper products may be linked to their supply chain, the Environmental Paper Network website provides free resources that can help managing social and environmental risk. Background information on the deforestation crisis in Indonesia and paper company profiles are available here. Many of the companies’ products are sold under different names, and a database tool for identifying subsidiaries and affiliates of APP (Sinar Mas) and APRIL (RGE) is available here.

Conflicts Plantations: Two new investigative research reports from Indonesia