Tag Archives: palm oil

Environmentalists challenge the RSPO to rein in its members

A group of environmental non-profit groups including Save Wildlife Conservation Fund, Friends of Borneo, Jakarta Animal Aid Network and research scientists today filed a complaint to the RSPO over the destruction of a biodiversity hotspot in Borneo.

The group alleges that the actions of palm oil company PT Mekar Bumi Andalas (MBA) a subsidiary of Wilmar Group is in open violation of many of the RSPO’s Principles & Criteria including encroachments into areas that are considered High Conservation Value Forests. MBA and other RSPO members have been building crude palm oil bulking stations in Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan which has open access to sea shipping. According to Stan Lhota, a research scientist that has studied the area since 2005, Balikpapan Bay is home of one of the five largest known populations of proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus). It counts about 1400 animals, which may possibly be 5 % of the world’s population of the species. Proboscis monkeys occupy mangroves, but they are vitally dependent on food resources found on dry land forest. They are therefore critically dependent on the existence of corridors, and the activities of these RSPO members are threatening the integrity of these forest corridors. The activities from building the palm oil refineries and holding stations will have a devastating and permanent impact on the area according to Stan Lhota.

Besides the destruction of terrestrial habitats, there are unique coral reefs and sea grass beds near the estuary of Sungai Berenga, that have been affected by brackish and muddy waters created by the developments in the area. Huge amounts of soil have also been washed away from the construction site and corals are dying as they are being covered by several millimetres of thick sediments.

The area is home to Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaela brevirostris) with approximately 60 – 140 animals counted. Studies have determined that the area is crucial to their feeding and daily migration between the upper and lower sections of the Bay, in accordance with tides. One of the few remaining populations of dugongs (Dugong dugon) is found in Balikpapan Bay as well and their prime feeding grounds are in in sub-tidal sea grass beds. An early indicator of localized extinction can already be seen in the decreased sightings of Green turtles that once lived in the coral reefs and sea grass beds.

The complaint against PT MBA cites over a dozen violations of the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria and is demanding that the RSPO put a stop to all activities not only from PT MBA but also from all other RSPO members in the area until all environmental concerns have been addressed. This complaint is a new challenge to the RSPO whose Principles and Criteria do not apply to bulking mills or refineries but in the words of Lars Gorschlueter, Director of Save Wildlife Conservation Fund, “If RSPO standards are not mandatory to their members and forests of High Conservation Value can be torn down because it’s a refinery and not a plantation, then when does the RSPO standards apply and why should we trust its certification?”

The group further demanded that the stoppage be immediate to prevent an embarrassing repeat of the Muara Tae situation where a long drawn out discussion between RSPO member, First Resources Ltd of Singapore and complainants became meaningless as the forests in question were almost completely clear cut in the two years it took the RSPO to try and decide on the case.

Via EPR Network
More Environment press releases

Nigerians Object To Land Grabs By A Foreign Palm Oil Company

Nigerian NGO Rainforest Resource Development Centre is challenging the legality of a plantation takeover by Wilmar International in the Nigerian state of Cross River.

Wilmar which has bought over the operations of Obasanjor Farms of Nigeria was supposed to take over plantation lands of some 12,000 hectares. These were to include the Ibad Plantation measuring 7,805 hectares, the Oban Plantation measuring 2,986.385 hectares and the Kwa Falls Plantation measuring 2,014.429 hectares. RRDC in its charges claims that Wilmar was mislead into making the transactions over Obasanjor Farms properties as much of the properties have outstanding claims against them which are in open violations of the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria for its members.

Citing multiple infractions of Nigerian state and federal laws governing land ownership and land use, the RRDC is calling the deal with Wilmar null and void until all outstanding issues are resolved. Some of the issues include land grabs that were initiated by Obasanjo Farms when it was established 11 years ago and the establishment of its plantations inside forest reserves including biodiversity hotspot Cross River National Park. Wilmar is yet to make any comment in respect of the irregularities raised by RRDC concerning the Obasanjor farms.

The most contentious issue revolves around ownership and title of the land. Wilmar in its defense in respect of the Biase New Planting Plantations stated that “The land title belongs to the government of Cross River State whose acquisition dates back to the mid seventies. Therefore, what we enjoy today is a sub-lease from the government who has paid all the ground rents to the landlords”

RRDC Director Odey Oyama in citing the Land Use Act No. 6 of 1978 (Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) stipulates that “the Governor is the Trustee, and nothing more. He holds land on behalf of the owners and acts according to the trust bestowed on him, in good faith and for the benefit of the owners, as prescribed by the Act. In LAW this means that he is the manager of another’s property: i.e. somebody who is given the legal authority to manage land on behalf of somebody else.”

The complaint to the RSPO further stated that Wilmar has received only the approval of two of the five affected communities for the plantation and insists on an open forum that will include the participation of all affected communities. Director Odey Oyama further stated that “ the RRDC has absolutely no objections to the good intentions of Wilmar towards the livelihoods and general economic wellbeing of the landlord communities. Our position however is that Wilmar must observe our National Laws and Regulations as they pertain to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the Land Use Act, the National Park Act, the Forest Laws and regulations, and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They should also continuously ensure that the rights, privileges and entitlements of indigenous communities are not usurped by any external agencies and /or influential internal minority interest groups.

Global demand for palm oil is expected to skyrocket in the coming years and South East Asian palm oil companies are increasingly looking towards Africa to create new plantations. Sime Darby Berhad of Malaysia was similarly challenged in its plantation in Liberia and agreed to pay reparations and proper compensations for affected communities there. The most contentious palm oil plantation in Africa however belongs to Herakles Farms USA where ongoing disputes between the company and land owners are yet to be resolved.

In addition to the indigenous land rights issues, the plantation areas encroach deep into Cross River National Park, home to several endemic primate species including the endangered Preuss Red Colobus and the Drill. “This plantation cannot be allowed to proceed the way it has been mapped out,” declared Lars Gorschlueter, Director of the Save Wildlife Conservation Fund. “We are already fighting Herakles Farms proposed plantation on the Cameroon side that will impact Korup National Park which is contiguous with Cross River National Park. If this industrial plantation is allowed into the Oban Forest Reserve, it will effectively box in wildlife and our research has shown that wildlife cannot survive in an environment like this.”

In the case of Wilmar’s plantations and operations in Nigeria, the RRDC remains hopeful that the company will abide by the Principles and Criteria of the RSPO.

Via EPR Network
More Environment press releases