On 6 December 2019, Mighty Earth released the Rapid Response Report 22. The report claimed PT Damai Agro Sejahtera, a subsidiary of Bumitama of clearing 948 ha of peat forest between 6 September 2019 and 13 November 2019.
On 8 January 2020, Mighty Earth published the Rapid Response Report 23. The report claimed PT Andalan Sukses Makmur, a subsidiary of Bumitama cleared 129 ha of forest between 4 September 2019 and 24 December 2019.
Apical demanded a clarification from Bumitama on the grievance case reported.
Bumitama explained that the areas located under the concession of PT Damai Agro Sejahtera (DAS) were not cleared but impacted by forest fires that struck the landscape of Sungai Putri forest during the peak of the dry season in September 2019.
While the change in vegetation colour from the satellite imagery may seem as a result of land-clearing, the ground-truthing check identified varied extent of damage, from apparently un-impacted to scorched and burned vegetation.
Bumitama is conducting internal investigation to identify the causes and prevent repeated occurrences of fires in its areas in the future, especially in conservation areas where habitats of endangered species and Borneo’s unique biodiversity are at risk. As majority of the burn scarred areas falls under designated conservation zones, these will be rehabilitated in partnership with local community and expert organisations.
The report on fires in PT DAS was release by Bumitama on 4 November 2019 which can be found here.
Apical seeking clarification from Bumitama on the deforestation allegation at PT Andalan Sukses Makmur (PT ASM).
Bumitama informed ground checking was conducted upon receiving the report. The reports showed that this is not a result of land clearing but a fire scar from forest fires that occurred in the area in September 2019.
According to Bumitama, these areas which are owned by the local community and thus enclaved from the management, are a part of the set-aside areas of 2,500 hectares (about 36% of PT ASMR’s permit) that were excluded from its plantation development plans and were set-aside for conservation based on the rapid HCS assessment and peat delineation study conducted in April 2014 (refer to announcement on 12 September 2014: http://ir.bumitama-agri.com/static-files/5ce66171-9006-449f-9189-b206eca3e0c7 ).
Upon reporting by the patrolling team, the fires were tackled by fire-response personnel. Two teams of 24 men were dispatched to the site, equipped with pumps and water hoses to douse the flames. However the forest terrain, lack of access roads and peat soil made it very difficult extinguish. Once put out, both incidents were recorded and reported accordingly to relevant local authorities, as well as to the RSPO under the hotspot monitoring scheme.
Although Bumitama has been successfully working with the larger community of Sekonyer village on alternative livelihood programmes and conservation and rehabilitation of set-aside areas in PT ASMR, however, certain individuals that own parts of this land persisted in mining activities, or used this land to develop small scale paddy and oil palm plantation. Bumitama has notified them that the fruits from this land will not be accepted by our mills in other locations (Bumitama does not have a mill in PT ASMR) as such development violates Bumitama’s 2015 Sustainability policy.