Giant rainforest buffer zone planned to protect Indonesian wildlife
Paper company responds to criticism with 1m hectare conservation plan but green groups say it won't stop loggers
Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the world's biggest paper companies, is to support the conservation of 1m hectares of rainforest in Indonesia, as a way of reducing its impact on the habitats of endangered species such as orangutan, elephants and tigers.
However, green experts said the plans would be difficult to make work and would not solve the problem of loggers depleting the animals' natural habitat.
APP's project will involve creating and protecting "wildlife corridors" for species, allowing them to move between areas without having their habitats cut off by logging activities, and "buffer zones" so that habitats are less encroached on by loggers, in at least nine areas across Indonesia. The 1m hectare figure represents an area roughly equivalent to the area of land the company exploited for sourcing pulp last year alone.
APP has been the target of concerted action by Greenpeace and other conservation charities over its activities, which have included allegedly using an endangered species of tree in its products. Last year the company responded to the criticism by initiating a "forest conservation policy" that it said resulted in an end to the clearance of "natural" forest in its concessions.
Aida Greenbury, managing director of sustainability at the company, said: "It has become clear that the key to the success of any efforts to halt deforestation in Indonesia is a landscape-level approach to forest restoration and conservation. Land cannot be conserved or restored in isolation - the sustainability of the entire landscape must be taken into account. By assessing entire landscapes and creating tailor-made objectives and strategies, the maximum possible level of conservation will be achieved, not just for natural forest in our concessions, but for areas around them as well."
The company did not say how much investment would go into the projects.
Andy Tait, senior campaign advisor at Greenpeace, said the initiative was welcome, but warned that its impact would be limited. "This commitment is good news and goes a long way towards addressing the deforestation for which the company has previously been responsible. However, the size of the challenge involved in delivery cannot be underestimated in a country that is struggling to protect even its national parks."
Tait pointed to the development of illegal plantations, the setting of fires and many cases in which the licences granted by authorities to exploit areas of forest overlap with conservation areas, as some of the problems holding back progress. He said: "These are among the many urgent governance issues that have to be addressed if conservation initiatives like this are to succeed."
He also pointed out that APP is unusual in taking on these projects - other very large pulp and paper companies in the region are not even taking such limited measures to curb the destruction they are causing. "The failure by other pulp and paper companies to stop their reliance on deforestation also badly undermines efforts to protect Indonesia's rainforests."
A campaign by Greenpeace in 2012 to alert some of APP's large customers to the problems with deforestation and the threat to species from illegal logging affecting its operations, and which resulted in some removing its products from their supply chains, was credited with helping to spur action on the issue. Green groups are now planning to extend their scrutiny to other large companies engaged in similar activities in the region.
Fiona Harvey, the guardian
This article first appeared in the guardian
edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network