Letter from Government Ministry Tells Indonesia’s Largest Deforester to Stop Clearing

Sydney Jones

Press Secretary

[email protected]

Carole Mitchell

Sr. Director Communications

[email protected]

In late March, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) issued a letter telling PT Mayawana Persada, Indonesia’s largest deforester, to stop all forest clearing activities.

Earlier in 2024, satellite imagery showed evidence in the south of the concession, indicating that Mayawana Persada was planning on clearing that area next. A field team recently investigated the area and found it home to numerous orangutans, sun bears and forest cats as well as very deep peat forest. Though a letter from MoEF was long overdue, the timing was welcome to stop the clearing before further harm could be done to these animals and carbon rich peatlands.

Sun Bear footprint in Mayawana Persada concession

Orangutan nest in Mayawana Persada concession

In the Mayawana Persada concession, almost 40,000 hectares have been cleared, half of which occurred in 2023 alone. In Southeast Asia, there has been an overall decline in commodity driven deforestation, but Mayawana Persada has bucked that trend, clearing at a scale not seen in more than a decade. Mighty Earth filed a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) complaint against the Alas Kusuma group (owner of Mayawana Persada until at least December 2023) which was accepted late last year.

Determining what company is behind current deforestation is clouded in secrecy.  In December of 2022, 50% of shares in Maywana Persada were sold to Green Ascend Sdn Bhd, a company owned by a shareholder domiciled in the British Virgin Islands called Green Ascend Group Limited. Alas Kusuma’s remaining shares in Mayawana Persada were sold to Behai International Group in December of 2023, a company owned by Balaji Investment Group Holdings Ltd domiciled in Samoa. As both the British Virgin Islands and Samoa are secrecy jurisdictions, it is impossible to rule out that Alas Kusuma did not sell the concession to itself to operate despite the ongoing FSC complaint. Others have made the allegation that RGE is behind the clearing in Mayawana Persada.  These are not mutually exclusive. Either way, Alas Kusuma is responsible for remediating the clearing that took place while the concession was under its control.  Recently, the company had two of its four FSC certificates either terminated or suspended.

Alas Kusuma has also violated the rights of local Indigenous Dayak people living around the Mayawana Persada concession whose customary land and sacred forests are being destroyed.

The letter from the Ministry of Forestry and Environment states that Mayawana Persada is to stop all logging activities and instead focus on environmental restoration activities including planting on empty land and  bushland.

These demands are framed around implementing Indonesia’s climate commitments, specifically its enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which includes restoring 2 million hectares of peatland and 12 million hectares of degraded land. In addition to Indonesia’s NDCs, the country also has set Forestry and Other Land Uses (FOLU) Net Sink 2030, meaning that the FOLU sector aims to reach negative emissions levels in 2030. To achieve FOLU Net Sink, MoEF is pushing to decrease deforestation and increase reforestation, in addition to maintaining valuable peatlands.

While it would have been better if it happened sooner, the MoEF’s acknowledgement of the egregious clearing within Mayawana Persada’s boundaries is a game-changer.

It’s an open question as to whether Mayawana Persada will respect the letter and stop clearing for good. Even so, this letter serves as proof that the government has enormous sway over Indonesia’s nature and climate. The incoming Prabowo administration should harness its capacity to reverse deforestation and strengthen Indonesia’s role as a provider of sustainably produced products. Mighty Earth, in collaboration with groups working on this issue in Indonesia, will continue to monitor the satellite imagery to ensure the clearing in Mayawana Persada has indeed stopped.

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