Firms filmed exploiting peatland forest in West Kalimantan

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Fire set to clear peatland in Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay

An Indonesian company and its Chinese partner have pushed ahead with an industrial wood plantation in a forest in Borneo, flouting a moratorium on the drainage and exploitation of Indonesia’s peatlands.

Photos and drone footage captured by activists in late July showed earth-moving machinery, a drainage canal full of water and the planting of seedlings in the Sungai Putri forest, despite an order in March from the Environment and Forestry Minister to cease operations.

Exploitation of the 57,000-hectare rainforest is supported by district officials in West Kalimantan, who claim the Chinese wood processing firm Benshang Advanced Materials Co. will invest $300 million in the area. But the industrial development of the forest contravenes a national moratorium on the exploitation of peatlands which was put in place to prevent a recurrence of the devastating forest fires of 2015.

Greenpeace has warned that the drainage of the Sungai Putri peatlands would create a significant fire risk, threatening the area’s communities and population of 1,200 critically endangered orangutans.