The threat of Deforestation of Suligi Hills by Corporations

The beauty of the ocean of clouds at the top of Bukit Suligi 812m above sea level (04/06/2020). Source : Zulfa Amira Zaed.

Rokan Hulu, RIAU. Deforestation on the island of Sumatra is not new, including in Riau Province, especially in the Bukit Suligi Protected Forest Area. The World Resources Institute Indonesia (WRI) said that 56% of its forest cover had been lost in the last 21 years (1998-2020).

This poses a serious threat to the sustainability of the Bukit Suligi protected forest area, which is located in two regencies in Riau, namely Kampar and Rokan Hulu, and serves as a water catchment area for the Kampar River, Siak River, and Rokan River.

Initially, the Bukit Suligi landscape was an area managed by the local indigenous community. But since the Government of the Republic of Indonesia took over the role of land tenure according to the Basic Forestry Law in effect in 1967, the community has slowly replaced rubber plantations there into oil palm plantations because they are considered more practical at a relative pricestable.

In order to maintain the availability of water in the protected forest area of Bukit Suligi and its surroundings, it is important to maintain the forest cover. If deforestation continues, it will inevitably threaten the sustainability of a number of waterfalls, the loss of the cloud cover that covers the top of the hill that resembles an ocean of clouds, to the destruction of the population of protected animals that live in it such as the Sumatran tiger, gibbon, deer, deer, andhoney Bear.

Law No. 41 of 1999 concerning Forestry has stipulated the establishment of a Forest Management Unit (KPH) as a forest management institution at the basic level. In the Bukit Suligi area, the FMU was formed in 1997, when encroachment was getting worse. The KPH that is formed should be able to control forest management in accordance with its designation and the applicable law.

Initially, the livelihoods of the local people were farming and rubber gardening. However, as time goes by, people are tempted by the prospect of multiple benefits offered by oil palm plantations. land outside the forest area has the potential to be used as an oil palm plantation area managed by local residents and corporations operating in the area. However, this is also a trigger for accelerated deforestation in the Bukit Suligi Protected Forest area.

According to the views of experts and activists, forest encroachment actions must be completed with strict law enforcement.

“Law enforcement must investigate the damage to forests that have been illegally converted into oil palm plantations because the potential for state and environmental losses is enormous from forest encroachment,” said Riko Kurniawan, Executive Director of Walhi Riau.

According to WALHI Riau’s records, of the 8.7 million hectares of land area of this province, around 63.56% or 5,531,223 hectares are controlled by investment in oil palm plantations, forestry and mining.

“Don’t give corporations space to influence the LHK Service, law enforcement against corporations that illegally encroach on the forest must be enforced. Some of the defendants have died, but there has been no legal action against 20 corporations and they continue to destroy natural forests in Riau,” concluded Made Ali as coordinator of the Riau Forest Rescue Network (Jikalahari).

Data belonging to Jikalahari shows other than PT At Six Utama (PEU), a palm oil company operating in protected forest areas, there are 7 corporations and 14 other cukong who control 45,301 ha of the area included in the outline (holding zone) for land management in Riau Province:

The tourism potential of the Bukit Suligi Protected Forest area

The Bukit Suligi Protected Forest area has huge tourism potential. Starting from the peak of Suligi Hill which has a height of 812 meters above sea level, to a number of waterfalls and caves.

Suligi Hill Peak climbing tour, or better known as Suligi Hill 812 masl in Aliantan Village, Rokan Hulu Regency, was initiated by the Head of Aliantan Village, Muhammad Rois Zakaria, with the care taker community since 2016. This climbing tour has attracted tourists from various directions, not only domestic but also foreign and has been awarded the 1st place in the 2019 Indonesian Pesona Anugerah (API) award.

“For the development of tourism potential in Riau, we are indeed looking for superior destinations. When Aliantan Village received the 2019 Anugerah Pesona Indonesia (API) award, there was tremendous support from the Governor of Riau, Syamsuar, and the district government,” explained Ervina as the Public Relations of the New Story Center, Riau Province Tourism and Creative Economy Office.

In 2019, Governor Syamsuar, aggressively introducing potential tourism objects in Riau Province to the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy and the tourist attraction Suligi Hill 812 meters above sea level (masl) which was included in the 2019 Indonesian Enchantment Award nomination, finally won first place. The previous governor had actually done the same thing.

“Suligi Hill 812 masl, has eleven waterfalls and eleven caves. Among them are Sekubin Waterfall and Garuda Cave. The area of land developed into a tourist location is approximately 50 hectares. The hope is that people’s incomes will increase from the tourism sector, as well as to increase Regional Original Income (PAD) and the awards received at the national level are not just a label but a reality with great potential. I hope that the people of Aliantan Village can improve their economy with tourism in Aliantan Village,” said Rois.

Regional Original Income (PAD) of Riau Province from the tourism sector reaches Rp. 4.2 trillion per year. “Tourism in Riau continues to grow with active roles from all levels of society and the government. We hope that the tourism sector can contribute more to PAD, more than 4.2 trillion for 2020 and beyond,” said Yose Rizal Zein as Head of the Riau Province Tourism and Creative Economy Office.

The need for law enforcement

However, only 500 meters from the summit of Suligi Hill, you can already see the ongoing encroachment. In early June 2020, local residents who were met while clearing the land around the location argued that they would plant durian trees.

“Here, the Musang King Durian Tree will be planted, not oil palm. This is a protected forest,” explained AA (not his real name) a resident who was met at the location.

Riko from Walhi Riau stated, “If your own land is processed to be replaced with durian trees, there is no problem. while the cleared protected forest violates the Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 18 of 2013”.

“Ideally, a land that will be planted with fruit such as durian trees does not need to be completely leveled by encroaching on the area. fruit trees will grow well in a lush protected area, not in a deforested forest,” Rois responded.

Corporations are also not left behind, taking part, exploring the Bukit Suligi Protected Forest Area. PT. PEU, which has been operating for 20 years in the Bukit Suligi area, is suspected to have carried out forest encroachment in the area. This palm oil processing company in addition to having a business area in Riau, also has a plantation area in Teluk Dalam, Asahan Regency, North Sumatra.

The Special Committee for Land Monitoring of the Riau Province DPRD found that around 3,500 hectares of the Bukit Suligi Protected Forest area had been illegally managed using the role of the community on behalf of the Member Primary Cooperative Credit group (KKPA).

In fact, the KKPA pattern as stipulated in the law mandates corporations to give 20 percent of their concession area to indigenous peoples to manage, and not as in the case of PT PEU, instead increasing the area of their concessions by buying land from communities outside the HGU area.

“KKPA is an effort made for the community where 20% of the land area of the company’s Business Use Rights (HGU) is to be managed and utilized as well as possible by indigenous peoples. but what happened was the opposite, the company bought from the community and it was outside the HGU,” said Asri Auzar, Deputy Chairman of the Riau Provincial DPRD as Chair of the Special Committee for the preparation of the Regional Spatial Planning Regulation (RTRW) of Riau Province Number 10 of 2018.

“All companies operating in Riau Province if they violate the law must be prosecuted. We’ll leave it to the court. The case is currently being heard at the Bangkinang District Court. We are waiting for the results of the trial,” continued the Democrat Party politician on June 9, 2020.

In line with Asri Auzar, Sugianto, a member of Commission II who is also involved in the Riau DPRD’s Special Committee for Land Monitoring, explained, “Many corporations own illegal land beyond the HGU permits granted. Illegal logging is a very extraordinary crime. We hope that PPNS at the Department of Environment and Forestry can take firm action against this matter together with the police.”

“We found PT PEU has increased the area of oil palm plantations by implementing a partnership pattern on a land area of approximately 2,543 hectares. In addition, the defendant actually occupied and controlled without rights and against the law outside the concession area granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, among others, on an area of 1,880 hectares by encroaching on a convertible production forest area of 611 hectaresencroaching on the Bukit Suligi Protected Forest area,” said Suhardiman Amby, President of the Riau People’s Council Foundation.

Regarding the alleged encroachment by PT. PEU in the protected forest area of Bukit Suligi, the Riau People’s Assembly Foundation (MRR) has filed a legal standing lawsuit to the Bangkinang District Court on December 10, 2019.

MRR sued PT PEU to cut down the oil palms that have been planted on the Bukit Suligi Protected Forest area and restore the function of the land as a protected forest, as well as maintain the forest for 6 consecutive years with costs borne by the defendant unconditionally but the legal standing was rejected by the panel of judges on June 18, 2020, on the grounds that the plaintiff did not meet the formal requirements to file for legal standing.

Based on Article 92 of Law 32 of 2009 concerning the Environment, the plaintiff must be a legal entity for a minimum of 2 years.

Responding to the lawsuit, PT. PEU through its attorney F.M. Muslim said, “Land management in Bukit Suligi, PT. PEU uses the Credit to Primary Cooperatives for Members (KKPA) pattern which benefits both parties. the managed land already has a permit, residents also hold land/land certificates”.

After the lawsuit was rejected, MRR has not made further efforts. “We haven’t taken the next step yet. it takes time and complete evidence to carry out further efforts,” explained Rusdi Nur as MRR’s attorney.

Meanwhile Asri Auzar will coordinate first, “We will first meet with several Riau DPRD Commissions and related agencies”.

The trial process for the legal standing of the Riau People’s Assembly Foundation (MRR) to PT. Padasa Six Utama (PEU) at the Bangkinang District Court, Kampar Regency, Riau (11/06/2020). Source: Zulfa Amira Zaed.

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