Letter: Oil palm plantations and orangutans

Letter: Oil palm plantations and orangutans
Mon, 01/09/2012 8:36 PM

The issues of deforestation and orangutan killings in Indonesia sparked a controversy recently. Both were linked to oil palm plantations, with some alleging that the plantations have caused deforestation and the death of orangutans in the country. The question is whether oil palm estates are really responsible for the forest destruction and the death of orangutans?

In the context of oil palm plantations, the concessions granted by the government have the status of Other Utilization Area (APL), or sometimes Conversion Production Forest (HPK). The concessionaires in the HPK zone have to request forest zone-release licenses from the Forestry Ministry. Pursuant to the law, it’s impossible for the government to grant concessions in production forests, let alone protected and conservation forests.

Therefore, it’s irrelevant to link the expansion of oil palm plantations with deforestation. Rather, the expansion of oil palm plantations has to do with “forest zones” rather than “forests”. There are indeed non-forest zones still covered with forests, and forest zones already without forests (degraded zones).

Likewise, it’s irrelevant to accuse oil palm plantations of causing the deaths of orangutans. Based on the Forestry Law, the habitat of orangutans comprises conservation forest zones, which include national parks and wildlife reserves for the protection of biodiversity covering certain species like orangutans.

Forest damage has in fact become public knowledge. The problem lies in the management of forest zones. Either the limits of forest zones are unclear or people have difficulty in distinguishing between forest zones and non-forest zones. This is very likely because forest zones are not clearly delineated and guarded, let alone those in remote locations.

Joko Supriyono
Secretary general, Indonesian Oil Palm Industries Association (GAPKI).
Bekasi, West Java