Monday, October 24, 2011

[biofuelwatch] Deforestation campaigning led to my deportation from Indonesia

Deforestation campaigning led to my deportation from Indonesia

It's no coincidence that my expulsion came after witnessing the huge tracts of rainforest cleared by Asia Pulp and Paper


So, why was I deported? Currently, I work on the campaign to reform the practices of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), an Indonesian company which, as our growing dossier of evidence shows, is still destroying huge tracts of rainforest. I work with our international team across a range of countries to find ways to encourage APP to change and to expose its extraordinary greenwash. I am also in regular contact with some of the major international businesses that have recently suspended contracts with APP. Before this I had been working with my Indonesian colleagues who negotiated with Golden Agri Resources (GAR), which – like APP – is part of the Sinar Mas group. Earlier this year, GAR introduced a new forest conservation policy and this new approach is regarded as the most progressive in the palm oil industry. If fully implemented, it could have hugely positive impacts across the whole sector.

I was allowed to depart for the trip and while a number of "administrative hurdles" were placed in our way en route, we were able to see some of the areas of deforestation caused by APP suppliers.These are areas the company claims are degraded and therefore suitable for clearing and replacing with plantations. But as soon as you see it for yourself, it's obvious it's not degraded. Our experience is that they are continuing to clear huge swaths of natural forest, much of it on areas of deep peat, and much of it in areas mapped as habitat for the endangered Sumatran tiger.
The more attention the issue gets, the more efforts the company throws at countering it. In Indonesia, this centres on trying to discredit the investigations of organisations like Greenpeace.

There is also a newspaper advert that states that, in order to see APP's commitment to conservation, you just need to follow their tracks. Well, last weekend my Indonesian colleagues and I did just that. The tracks that we saw the company leaving are those left by the miles and miles of canals which have been cut through the vast peatlands in order to drain them. Those canals are followed by the tracks of caterpillar diggers bulldozing their way through hectare after hectare of natural forest, clearing and stacking the timber before it's transported to APP mills. The tracks left by APP are the tracks of the destruction on an industrial scale of Sumatra's rainforests.
This house of cards the company has built has already started to fall down. Mattel was the latest in a long line of major international brands to suspend contracts with APP.

• Andy Tait is a senior campaigns adviser at Greenpeace

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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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