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Paper manufacturer APRIL to help boost Indonesia's conservation efforts

Indonesia's ongoing efforts to reduce deforestation received a further boost following commitments by pulp-paper manufacturer APRIL to stop establishing new plantations by December. It is part of a revised sustainable forest management policy.

JAKARTA: Indonesia's ongoing efforts to reduce deforestation received a further boost following commitments by pulp-paper manufacturer APRIL (Asia Pacific Resources International Limited) to stop establishing new plantations by December. It is part of a revised sustainable forest management policy.

The environmental conservation initiative that the APRIL has put in place has been endorsed by the Indonesian and Norwegian governments.

The company, which is Indonesia's leading pulp and paper manufacturer, introduced sustainability into its plantation forestry operations in 2005.

Key among its recent commitments is identifying High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF), and ensuring that the company and its supply partners will stop all activities until a proper assessment has been done.

Top management at APRIL said this latest initiative will take the company's sustainable forest management policy to a new level.

Praveen Singhavi, president of APRIL, said: "We were actually encouraging our suppliers and our supply partners to do their HCVF assessment on their concessions also. Now, we are mandating that all suppliers who supply wood or fibre to us have to go through the HCVF assessment process, hence we talk about this moratorium. If any supplier has not completed their HCVF assessment process, we will not buy from them."

APRIL has announced that by December 2014, no new plantations will be established. Another target date is 2019, when non-plantation wood used in the mill will come from non-forested areas.

Zulkifli Hasan, the Indonesian forestry minister, said: "The Forestry Ministry supports and appreciates APRIL's commitment of its policies in sustainable forestry. With the government, APRIL is taking up a role in restoring the eco-system. Recently, we issued a license for them to restore Riau's ecosystem."

Under April's new Sustainable Forest Management Policy, the forest restoration programme in Kampar Peninsula and Pulau Padang areas will be doubled to 40,000 hectares.

However, this very policy has come under strong criticism.

Four months ago, environmental groups have accused APRIL of using a US$17 million peatland restoration project in Riau's heavily degraded Kampar Peninsula to "greenwash" the continued cutting of old-growth forests.

Deddy Ratih, advocacy manager for Bioregion and Climate Change at WALHI, said: "We found that they were still clearing land in West Kalimantan. We believe the peat land they cleared holds a high conservation value and is also rich in carbon. So it's normal if they are accused of green washing or in other words, just giving lip-service."

To ensure greater transparency, environmental groups including the WWF have been invited by pulp-paper manufacturer APRIL to be part of a Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

Mr Ratih added: "There are standards that are upheld which we think must be high. The standards indicate what needs to be done. I don't consider it important to involve an NGO like WWF. Instead, it's up to their ability to influence APRIL on what needs to be done well, that's more important."

The advisory committee is expected to monitor the implementation of the Sustainable Forest Management policy. And to ensure independence, the committee will also write progress reports and select its own verification auditor.

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