Sunday, September 24, 2023

Riau Ecosystem Restoration Program Six Years On

May 20, 2019 | 12:00 am
The rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros), is a vulnerable (VU) species in the IUCN Red List, one of 304 bird species to be found in the RER area. (Photo courtesy of APRIL Group)
The rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros), is a vulnerable (VU) species in the IUCN Red List, one of 304 bird species to be found in the RER area. (Photo courtesy of APRIL Group)

Jakarta. Pulp and paper producer APRIL Group started its ecosystem restoration program in Riau six years ago. Since then, wildlife has been returning to the forest, most of its ecological functions restored and forest fires reduced to the lowest point in four years. 

The data were released in the Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER) program's annual report last year.

In a concession area twice the size of Singapore – 150,000 hectares – the RER team has been able to restore the hydrological functions of the forest by involving local communities. 

"Our efforts to protect and restore the ecological functions of the area have seen big results. In 2018, a 65,400-meter drainage canal in the RER area was closed. This is an ongoing effort that will continue until 2025," RER external affairs director Nyoman Iswarayoga said during the release of RER's 2018 Progress Report on Thursday.

Nyoman said the closing of the drainage canal was part of the RER team's effort to restore hydrological functions in the forest, reduce risks of forest fires and minimize carbon emissions while maximizing the forest's function as a carbon sink.

The last five years has seen RER successfully restoring 58 hectares of peatland.

The report also detailed how the RER program has identified 42 wildlife species previously undiscovered in the area, tallying the total to 759.

As many as 71 species of mammals, 304 species of birds, 107 amphibians and reptiles, 119 species of trees, 69 species of plants and 89 species of fish were found in the protected forest, with quite a few of them being endangered or protected.

The concession area is also a designated Important Bird Area (IBA). In the 2017 report, only 128 species of birds had been discovered in the Kampar Peninsula where the forest is located.

"Some of the previously undiscovered species in the area that we found include the white-winged duck [Asarcornis scutulata] and the storm's stork [Ciconia stormi]. Six out of the nine species of hornbill we know were also found in the RER area, among them the endangered rhinoceros hornbill," Nyoman said.

The 2018 annual report also highlighted the RER program's partnership with communities living around the restoration area. Throughout 2018, RER trained eight community groups to clear land without using fire and to breed catfish.

The president director of Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) – APRIL Group's operating arm – Sihol Aritonang said that RER's achievements were inseparable from APRIL's "produce and protect" philosophy.

RER is also the realization of the company's commitment to help the Indonesian government reach its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically goal number 15: Life on Land.

"RER is our way of realizing the Sustainable Forest Management Policy 2.0 adhered to by the APRIL Group. The company is committed in conserving or restoring one hectare of forest land for every hectare that the company manages," Sihol explained.

During the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) 2015 in Paris, APRIL Group committed $100 million over 10 years to support restoration and conservation programs like RER.

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