Bangkok, Jul 15 (efe-epa).- Greenpeace on Wednesday accused one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies of destroying tropical peatlands in Indonesia.
Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), which has clients including Unilever, Nestlé, Asku and Woolworths, has been actively clearing Sumatran peatland for pulpwood plantations in breach of its own environmental commitments, according to the environmental NGO.
Greenpeace said in a statement that it has satellite images that prove the pulp and paper company, owned by the Sinar Mas Group, felled around 3,500 hectares of peatland between August 2018 and June 2020.
The ecosystem was destroyed in three concessions either owned by or that are suppliers to APP and 50 hectares was burned in late June on one of these concessions, it added.
Peatlands are carbon-rich swampy soils formed by the accumulation of dead plants, making them highly fertile and also meaning they emit a high level of gases into the atmosphere if burned.
The data also shows that around 53 km of drainage canals were dug in the same period to create plantations, according to Greenpeace.
This action breached commitments made by the company in 2013 to end its role in deforestation and introduce new conservation and peatland protection pledges, the NGO said.
Kiki Taufik, global head of the Indonesia forests campaign at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a statement: “Plantation companies are legally responsible for any fires on their land, yet APP flouts the law and evades justice, escaping with little more than a slap on the wrist.
“They backtrack on their commitments to protect and restore the ecosystems they have destroyed.
“This makes a mockery of their attempts to talk about sustainability approaches with their stakeholders.”
He warned that no company that “claims to care about the environment” can continue to trade with APP.
Activists said the canals drain peatlands and then vegetation is removed by fires, which can burn for months and cause toxic clouds that affect countries in the region, especially during the dry season from April to November.
Plantations for the production of paper and palm oil have been accused of being partly responsible for fires that destroy forests and pollute the atmosphere.
Around 900,000 hectares of land were burned in Sumatra and Borneo last year causing large clouds of toxic smoke that led to respiratory problems for 900,000 Indonesians and affected neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.
A fire in 2015 devastated an area of ??2.6 million hectares in the Indonesian archipelago, prompting the government to take a series of measures to protect and restore protected forests and peatlands, which has since been questioned by Greenpeace.
More than 4.3 million hectares of land were burned in Indonesia between 2015 and 2019.
The country is the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, largely due to forest fires. EFE/EPA