Jakarta. It has been five years since pulp and paper giant APRIL Group started its ecosystem restoration program in Indonesia’s Riau province and, according to the program’s 2017 annual report, it has resulted in the return of wildlife, an improvement in community welfare and reduced forest fires.
APRIL Group has invested significant resources in its ecosystem restoration program that is aimed at protecting, restoring, as well as conserving, ecologically important peatland forest within Indonesia’s Riau Province.
Located on Sumatra’s eastern coastline, the RER program has a license to restore an ecosystem across 150,000 hectares of peatland forest, with 130,000 hectares located on the Kampar Peninsula and an additional 20,000 ha located on nearby Padang Island. The total peatland restoration area is about twice the size of Singapore.
The restoration program was started in 2013 and involves five concessions operated by a number of companies, Gemilang Cipta Nusantara, Sinar Mutiara Nusantara, The Best One Unitimber and Global Alam Nusantara, all operating under 60-year ecosystem restoration licenses granted by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
The program is part of APRIL Group’s pledge to conserve one hectare of natural forest for every hectare of fibre plantation. To date, APRIL has met 83 percent of its goal with more than 400,000 hectares of natural forest protected and conserved. In 2015, APRIL dedicated $100 million to support and secure the long-term conservation and restoration program.
"These achievements illustrate our model where RER is complemented by production forestry, which provides the financial resources to fund restoration, as well as the protection provided by an actively managed ring of fiber plantations” said Bey Soo Khiang, chairman of the RER advisory board.
Another highlight of the report is the first identification of the Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) in the restoration area, becoming the 300th species of bird known to be present in the area.
Camera traps were essential tools in discovering species in the Kampar Peninsula and Padang Island concessions. In a period between March and October of last year, the restoration effort installed 84 cameras, capturing 6,310 snapshots that identified 52 species of animals in the region.
The wildlife monitoring team from RER also identified the Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor). Surveys completed by FFI previously have only managed one sighting of the elusive animal.
The restoration effort placed personnel at each of the main access rivers into the restoration area, and continually encouraged the local community to use alternatives to slash-and-burn land clearing methods. Results indicated that no hotspots were detected inside the RER area in 2017 and, for the third consecutive year, no fires were recorded.
Hydrological and forest restoration demonstrated steady progress in 2017. RER produced over 39,000 seedlings in its nurseries which contain over 70 different tree species, utilising over 1,900 seedlings on 12.5 ha of degraded land for planting and assisted natural regeneration.
“We have made good progress in 2017, while at the same time understanding that we need to maintain momentum into 2018 and beyond,” said Bey Soo Khiang.