Indonesia is an emergent global force, a country of significant current heft and greater promise, a country that–as it continues to grow–arguably has at least a good a claim if not greater as Russia to be counted as a member of the BRIC, or BRIC, club of emergent global economic powers. Like other countries which are making this ascent, and which have made the ascent, this comes at a significant cost to its natural environment. Charundi Panagoda notes at Inter Press Service that the growing Indonesian paper industry is threatening the endangered Sumatran tiger.
The survival of Sumatra’s tigers, elephants, orangutans, rhinos, as well as indigenous communities, is threatened by the “world’s fastest deforestation rate”, caused by none other than the pulp and paper industry, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
In a recent report, WWF named the Indonesian-based company Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) as “responsible for more forest destruction in Sumatra than any other single company”. APP and competitor Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) have consumed the majority of the wood harvested from commercial forest clearances and agriculture conversion.
“In central Sumatra, the impact of APP’s operations on wildlife has been devastating. The company’s forest clearing in Riau Province has been driving Sumatran elephants and tigers toward local extinction,” the report said.
The companies have also begun clearing peat swamp forests. According to Indonesian ministry of forestry estimates, deforestation associated with peat decomposition and burning totals 1.2 gigatonnes of carbon emissions per year, making Indonesia the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter.
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What APP calls “degraded land” is what WWF calls “tiger habitat,” WWF forest programme manager Linda Kramme told IPS. She believes many of the sustainability statements made by APP and Oasis are misleading. Suggesting APP is only impacting a small amount of Indonesia is like saying the recent Gulf oil spill only impacted a small amount of the U.S., she added.
“(WWF) believes they are mischaracterising their practices happening on the ground. Many U.S. customers and companies don’t have the ability to go to Indonesia and see what’s happening, so it can be easy for them to read materials that APP and companies that market their products like Oasis say – that they have different certification, that they are doing things with conservation. But our teams for two decades have seen impacts on ground and we see and obligation to raise the questions and to raise the facts,” she said.
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In 2010, APP was affected by the U.S. Commerce Department imposing anti-dumping duty orders for certain coated paper imported from Indonesia. “Dumping” is a predatory pricing practice in international trade that allows companies to sell their imported products at very low prices, driving out the competition.
“There is an environmental component to the fact that (APP products are) less expensive. One of the reasons they can afford lower costs is because they are getting fibre illegally (by illegal logging, for example). They are not engaging in the kind of business practices which cost a little bit more if you want to do things legally and that result in lower prices,” Johnson said.
Still, the U.S. can prosecute companies like APP only if the government of the producer country has criminal penalties for the same activity. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of the Indonesian government to effectively implement conservation laws, activists say.
Johnson says a strong case can be made that Indonesia has affectively subsidised the pulp and paper industry by not enforcing its own laws.