Tag Archives: Deforestation

Merauke Burns – but were the plantations to blame?

By AwasMIFEE

First Published: November 20, 2015

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The rains have finally arrived, putting out the forest fires that raged across Indonesia through the last few months. Forest burning takes place every dry season, but this year an especially strong El Nino phenomenon meant that the dry season was longer and dryer, and the fires were especially bad.

The worst crises were, as in other years, on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, where human pressure on the forest is high, and deep peat soils mean that fires can burn for months. However this dry season there were also significantly more fires than usual in southern Papua, in Merauke and Mappi regencies. Timika, nearly 600 kilometres away, suffered from smoke haze as a result.

Merauke has become in recent years the main focus for the growth of industrial agriculture in Papua, due to various incarnations of  a central government project, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate, and associated oil palm plantations. But is there a link between these development plans and the fires? awasMIFEE presents two articles to address this question. The first is an analysis of satellite photographs in two of Korindo’s plantations where clear evidence of fire on is found on newly-deforested land, by Sam Lawson of Earthsight. This article aims to complement that research by looking at the link between fire and deforestation in other plantations over the last four years, and the wider situation in Merauke.

Many fires outside plantation areas.

Fire hotspot data shows that the fires were found throughout the southern part of Merauke, where the vegetation is made up of mixed forest and grassland. Some of these fires were within plantation concession boundaries (unsurprisingly, since undeveloped plantation concessions cover well over a million hectares, more than a quarter of Merauke’s land area). There were a few concentrations of hotspots in areas where plantation companies are known to be active (Medco’s timber plantation in Zanegi village and woodchip factory in Boepe, Rajawali’s sugar cane plantation near Domande, PT Agriprima Cipta Persada and PT Agrinusa Persada Mulia’s oil palm plantations in Muting). However, as there were also many, many other fires away from these areas, there is insufficient evidence to conclude in these cases that fires were started by the companies.

Another important point is that some of the highest concentrations of fires were in areas where there are no plantations planned – such as Dolok Island, and the western part of Mappi Regency. It’s also worth pointing out that there were also a lot of fires across the border in Papua New Guinea, especially along the Fly River which flows close to the border.

The conclusion is: while it is certainly possible that some of the fires were connected with agricultural development, the high number of hotspots outside areas earmarked for plantations means it is likely that many of them were started for other reasons.

The big exception: Korindo.

In the more densely forested north-eastern part of Merauke, there were less fires. However when you look at where those fires were, you see a very strong pattern – many of them were clustered within oil palm concessions. What’s more, the hotspots (marked in orange) show a very strong correlation with data on areas deforested in 2015.1

Merauke Plantation Fires 2015

Three of those concessions are owned by the Korindo Group. PT Tunas Sawa Erma (which has been operating since 1998 but has not developed the whole concession) PT Dongin Prabhawa (which started land clearance in 2011) and PT Papua Agro Lestari (which appears to have just started clearing land in the last few months). Another is PT Bio Inti Agrindo (operating since 2012), which is owned by Daewoo International Corporation, but known to have a close relationship to Korindo.

Here’s a closer look at two of them: PT Dongin Prabhawa and PT Bio Inti Agrindo:

PT dp dan PT BIA 2015

This is quite strong evidence to indicate that these companies may have been using fire to clear land, a practice which is illegal in Indonesia. This evidence is further reinforced if we look at fire data for previous years.  It appears that there have been fires in the concessions each year, and the fire locations closely follow each successive year’s cutting plans. The implication is that Korindo and Daewoo International companies appear to have been regularly using fire to clear land since 2012.

The following maps use a different source of deforestation data – tree cover loss data from the University of Maryland – which gives an indication of which bits of forest were cut each year, and this is overlaid with the hotspots detected by NASA MODIS satellites the same year. Both sets of data are available to browse on the www.globalforestwatch.org website, but due to the way that site is structured you can’t see them simultaneously like this.

Here’s some views of PT Dongin Prabhawa’s concession in 2012,2013 and 2014. The purple areas were the areas deforested that year. The orange dots are the hotspots recorded in the same year. You can see that in 2012, there were several fires in the area cleared, in 2013 fires burned in areas cleared that year and the year before, and then in 2014 fires broke out in more newly cleared blocks.

PT Dongin Prabhawa 2012-2014A similar pattern can be seen in PT Bio Inti Agrindo’s concession. Forest clearance started in the north-western corner of the concession, and moved eastward, including in 2014 clearing the corridor that eventually connects the larger eastern block of the concession. There were concentrations of hotspots in 2012 and 2013 in the western block, at the same time that deforestation was taking place there.bca bia 2012-4

Just to the north of PT Bio Inti Agrindo is PT Berkat Cipta Abadi, another Korindo subsidiary which started clearing in 2012. Here too, the fires closely mirrored the deforestation pattern, with a particularly high concentration in 2014.


  1. Deforestation data is from Sam Lawson’s analysis of Landsat satellites, tracing the difference between images dated late January 2015 to late October 2015.  ↩

Thanks to MIFEE, 3.6% of Indonesia’s Emissions produced in Merauke

From Bintang Papua via awasMifee

Published: September 13, 2014

The Merauke Regency is experiencing a rapid rate of forest degradation and loss. This is illustrated by Merauke Regency’s contribution to total emissons1 in the province of Papua which is 45.29%. Merauke’s contribution to Indonesia’s national emissions is 3.6%.

Tangke Mangi, who is the Merauke Bupati’s Expert Staff for Economy and Finance, said that a high emissions rate resulted from forest degradation and loss in Merauke. The extent of forest cover in Merauke Regency is 2.12 million hectares, compared with 22.25 million hectares of forest cover and 3.084 million hectares of scrubland in Papua [province] as a whole.

“Merauke Regency as part of Indonesia, has already been assigned as an area for low-carbon development in Papua Province. So we have to swiftly follow up this initiative by compiling a Regency-level Strategic Action Plan (SRAK), he said in a workshop presenting the idea of the SRAK in Cafe Bellafiesta yesterday.

It has been mentioned that Merauke’s emissions are a result of forest degradation and loss, which means they are caused by exploitation on the part of several corporate investors that are involved in the MIFEE program.

“We can understand that this is happening because of the MIFEE program, so we need to balance it with the right mitigation actions. That way there can be a balance between economic development and environmental conservation”, he said.

He made it clear that several actions that are already taking place can be synchronised with a mitigation program such as participative mapping of important places for indigenous communities, as is outlined in Merauke Regency’s land-use plan (RTRW) “The people need to be give space and places so they can take care of their sacred sites as well as the important places which are sources of the indigenous community’s everyday livelihood needs”, he added.

Additionally the national commitment to reduce emissions by 41 percent is supported by Papua province which has been putting together a strategic action plan for the whole province. This will then be implemented by all development sectors in Papua, creating three zones of green economy and low-carbon development.

Source: Bintang Papua http://bintangpapua.com/index.php/lain-lain/papua/papua-selatan/item/17014-kabupaten-merauke-penyumbang-emisi-terbesar-di-papua

Tempo: Papua MIFEE Project Faces Criticism

http://www.tempointeractive.com/hg/nasional/2011/08/15/brk,20110815-351921,uk.html

TEMPO InteractiveJakarta:The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) Program has been accused of disenfranchising local farmers in Papua. Berry N. Furqon, director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said that more than 100,000 ha of forest had been cut down for the project, including the sago forest on which the locals depend upon.

Abet Nego Tarigan, executive director of Sawit Watch, called on the United Nations to cancel the project. Abet said the MIFEE could endanger Indonesia as it allows companies rather than farmers to control the food supply.

The MIFEE project was inaugurated by Agriculture Minister Suswono on August 11 last year. The program sees plantations in Merauke managed by companies that also manage the local farmers. One million ha, divided in five clusters, has been allocated for the program.

As many as 32 companies have obtained principle licenses and will operate in a range of plantation sectors, namely palm oil, sugar cane and corn among others. Companies that have invested in the program include Wilmar, Sinarmas, Bakrie Sumatera Plantation, Medco, Bangun Cipta Sarana and Artha Graha.

NUR ROCHMI

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2) Indonesia Turns Back on Papua Food Bowl Plan
Faisal Maliki Baskoro | August 15, 2011

After two years with little progress, the government is considering shifting the location of its planned food estate to East Kalimantan from Papua because of the availability of land.

Suswono, the agriculture minister, on Monday said there was 200,000 hectares of land in East Kalimantan that could be used as an agriculture cluster. Under its plan, the Merauke Food Industrial Estate would have about 2 million hectares.

“The principle of the food estate is finding enough land for an agricultural zone. It doesn’t have to be in Papua,” he said. “[The East Kalimantan site] may not as big as Merauke, but it is more feasible. It has been two years since we floated the plan, but there has been no progress at all.”

Suswono said land clearance regulations were partly to blame for the slow progress.

“The construction of the Merauke food estate was obstructed by lack of regulation to clear necessary land,’’ Suswono said.

The government annually imports 2 million tons each of rice and soybean, and the nation needs to be able to feed its people without importing food, he said.

He said the government and potential investors would seek suitable areas for producing the two crops.

“The land in East Kalimantan is good for planting rice,” he said. To grow soybean, the ministry would need at least 500,000 hectares, and the government was still looking for land in Kalimantan.

While East Kalimantan has 200,000 hectares of land free, the West Kalimantan administration said it could provide 100,000 hectares of land, he said.

Suswono said farmland would not interfere with the preservation of forests. “We will be using open land, and probably convert production forests to farms. We will also empower local people to get involved in the program.”

Ecosystem in Merauke must be preserved, says agricultural expert


JUBI, 11 August 2011
The District of Merauke has a very rich ecosystem  which needs to be  preserved and protected. The problem is that when forests are cleared, this damages much of the ecosystem and virtually destroys it.
Drs Sudirman, an agricultural expert at the provincial administration of Merauke district, speaking during a technical guidance event  in Wasur, said that as the  population increases, land will be cleared everywhere  which will have a very damaging impact on the ecosystem in forested regions.
‘One example: When forests were cleared to make way for the MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) project, recently, a significant part of the ecosystem was lost and much of is it already dead. It is the responsibility of everyone concerned  to think about the best way to deal with this problem so as to ensure that the ecosystem is not damaged.’ he said.
He said that the TH Wasur region in particular has a large number of species which means that it is the responsibility of everyone, including the original inhabitants of the district, to play their part in preserving  the ecosystem.

PT Rajawali to establish sugar factory in Merauke

JUBI, 16 July 2011 PT Rajawali is planning to establish a sugar factory in two areas in Merauke, Malind district, in Kampung Kaligi and Kampung Domde. The government has already agreed to hand over 37,500 hectares for this purpose. The company is waiting for an agreement on the release of forestry land which is expected to be issued by the Director of Panology (?).

This is likely to happen in August this year. The project manager of PT Rajawali, Abdul Wahab, told JUBI that they were waiting for the AMDAL license. Speaking for the company, Abdul said they had carried out tests on 200 hectares and this will be followed by the hand over of 1,000 hectares. Abdul said that laboratory tests have not yet been conducted because the sugar cane must have grown for at least one year, but he said that, considering the results of the seedling tests, the prospects are very good indeed.

Tests in the nursery have indicated that from one hectare of seedlings, the sugar cane can cover an area of seven hectares. Asked about the work force, Abdul said that their priority would be to employ indigenous people. He said that for the initial tests, local people had been employed for planting the seeds and other jobs. He said that they were urging the company to commence its operations as soon as possible.