Is RSPO member Duta Palma breaking Indonesia's deforestation ban?

Posted by Richardg — 24 April 2013 at 5:52pm - Comments
by-nc. Credit: Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Clearing peatland rainforest in a palm oil concession in Riau owned by PT Palma Satu, part of the Duta Palma group.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was set up so you could buy palm oil without fueling deforestation. So why does it look like Duta Palma, an RSPO member, is destroying the Indonesian rainforest?

Duta Palma is one of the biggest palm oil companies in the world. It has a long history of deforestation, conflict with communities and outright law-breaking. Now it looks like they're at it again, breaking the Indonesian government's ban on deforestation and destroying hundreds of acres of forest and tiger habitat.

Read our latest report on Duta Palma.

Our researchers have been studying satellite photos of Duta Palma concessions. They noticed that about 800 acres of forest right next to Duta Palma's PT Palma Satu plantation had been cleared. This is carbon-rich peatland and is specifically protected by the government's deforestation ban.

Earlier this year, our team visited the site and spotted drainage canals dug into the peat and roads leading straight into Duta Palma's plantation. A witness told them that Palma Satu employees had been seen planting oil palm too.

We checked with the local forestry department. They told us that they hadn't given anyone permission to destroy this protected rainforest or to set up a palm oil plantation.

All of this looks really dodgy, so we asked Duta Palma what was going on. Despite several requests, answer there came none.

This isn't just bad news for the Indonesian rainforest, it's bad news for the RSPO. It can't claim to guarantee sustainable palm oil if its members are blazing a trail of wanton destruction through the Indonesian rainforest.

If Duta Palma is destroying the rainforest - as all the evidence suggests it is - then the RSPO needs to act swiftly and firmly. Otherwise it will be seen as a toothless tiger, sitting on its hands while one of its members drives the real tigers to extinction.

Hi Will,

I'm not sure I follow you.

One of the RSPO's members seems to be ignoring the RSPO guidelines and chopping down the rainforest without a permit and in breach of the Indonesian moratorium on deforestation.

I'm sure that you would agree that if the RSPO is to be a viable labelling system for sustainable palm oil then it must take swift and firm action if its members are engaged in wanton deforestation. Otherwise what is the point of it?

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