Timber plantation licenses on Mentawai cancelled
First, civil organisations had to stave off palm oil plantations. Now they’ve staved off timber plantations.
A few weeks ago, the Rainforest Foundation Norway wrote about the company Biomas Andalan Energi.
The company had originally obtained an initial permit over 200 km2 of tropical rainforest and indigenous lands in Siberut, in the Mentawai islands in Indonesia. Biomas planned to build timber plantations in the area, but the Indonesian authorities have now cancelled the licenses.
Problems with environmental assessments
In order to start its operations and open the forest to create plantations, the company needed to get its environmental impact assessment for the plantation area approved by the government.
- The Mentawai islands are an archipelago 150 km from the west coast of Sumatra
- Has 70.000 inhabitants, most of which are indigenous Mentawai people
- Siberut is the most forested of all the Mentawai islands, with parts of it being protected by the UNESCO Biosphere Siberut National Park
- There are still many Mentawai people living traditionally, in a semi-nomadic way and as hunters and gatherers. Their lives are very dependent on the forest
When the authorities assessed the company’s environmental impact assessment, they saw some conflicting views on the use of the land. While the central government see these lands as leasable to companies for exploitation, the district government of the Mentawai see them as prone to indigenous lands where floods can occur if the forest is destroyed.
Yayasan Citra Mandiri Mentawai, RFN’s long lasting partner organisation, persuaded the authorities and members of academia assessing the timber company’s Environmental Impact Assessment that this land was not prone for exploitation, after convincing the Mentawai Regent to send a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to reject the plans.
In addition to this, Mentawai students held demonstrations in Padang where they showed their will not to accept the destruction of their forests and lease out their ancestral lands.
As a result, the commission in place rejected the environmental impact assessment of the company. By the time this decision was made, the company’s initial permit had expired. It was therefore impossible for them to obtain the necessary permits to start operating.
– This is a great success for the forests and people of Siberut. They managed to stop an industrial plantation plan before it started, while there was still a chance of stopping the license process, says Lorelou Desjardins of the Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Rifai Lubis, Director of YCCM, says:
– YCMM had a major role in inhibiting the process of preparing this EIA. We were able to persuade the different authorities to jointly reject the plantation plans, and we continue an intense communication with provincial government officials. The Mentawai students were also of great help to show the Mentawai people’s will to defend their islands from company exploitation.
The petition started by YCMM to protect the Mentawai islands from timber plantations was also a broad success, with 135.034 signatures collected to this day.
This shows national but also international support for the rights of the Mentawai people to protect their islands against exploitation.