Borneo: New clear-cutting in the orangutan forest – for paper!

Male orangutan facepalming His forest is being destroyed for paper... (© flickr/CIFOR (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)) Indigenous Dayak on clear-cutting ...and the land of the Indigenous Dayak on Mount Sabar Bubu is being stolen (© AMAN Kalbar)

Mar 20, 2024

In Borneo, a company is cutting down rainforest and peat forest that is home to a large population of orangutans. The company is grabbing land from Indigenous people and planting eucalyptus and acacia trees on it to make paper.

Orangutans are on the brink of extinction. Yet a company on Borneo is rapidly destroying the great ape’s preferred habitat – intact old-growth forest and peat swamp forest.

The company, PT Mayawana Persada, is violating environmental laws by destroying orangutan forest, clearing and draining peatlands, and expanding timber plantations right down to the riverbanks while trampling on the rights of Indigenous people. It has robbed many Dayak communities of their forest. One example is the Benua Kualan Hilir forest on Mount Sabar Bubu.

Environmental organizations in West Kalimantan have conducted research on the ground. Their “Report on ecological damage and human rights violations by PT Mayawana Persada: Illegal expansion of timber plantations in West Kalimantan” has been available to the authorities for weeks. At a meeting with the Environmental Agency in late February, the coalition called for severe sanctions against the company.

“PT Mayawana Persada cleared and drained 14,505 hectares of peat forest in 2023 alone,” says Hendrikus Adam, director of the environmental NGO WALHI West Kalimantan. “That means the company will emit 797,775 tons of CO2, a gigantic number that will undermine efforts to mitigate the climate crisis.”

The company is establishing timber plantations for the pulp and paper industry on the cleared land. According to the new study, “Deforestation Anonymous. Rainforest destruction and social conflict driven by PT Mayawana Persada in Indonesian Borneo”, published by Indonesian and international organizations, PT Mayawana Persada has already destroyed 33,000 hectares since 2021.

The good news: 55,000 hectares of Mayawana Persada’s concession are still rainforest. In addition to the orangutans, it is home to other endangered species such as the white-bearded gibbon (Hylobates albibarbis), the hornbill (Rinoplax vigil) and the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus). They can and must be saved. This makes Mayawana Persada a critical test case for whether and how deforestation in Indonesia’s rainforests can be brought under control. Rainforest Rescue supports the NGO’s campaign with planning and, if necessary, with a petition.

The problem: The people behind the company are unknown. It is owned by a number of companies based in the Virgin Islands and Samoa. Companies there are not required to disclose their shareholders. But shared office addresses and the names of executives suggest a possible connection to a holding company, Royal Golden Eagle (RGE).

RGE is a global producer of pulp, paper, packaging, tissue, viscose and palm oil. In 2015, RGE committed to a zero deforestation supply chain. This means that supplier companies must also document that they are not cutting down rainforests or harming local communities.

Yet despite protests, on-the-ground actions and numerous press reports, Mayawana Persada continues to destroy forests.

Together with the Indonesian and international organizations, Rainforest Rescue demands:

  • STOP deforestation and peatland drainage;
  • Make Royal Golden Eagle’s relationship with PT Mayawana Persada transparent;
  • To business partners and investors: freeze relations with Royal Golden Eagle;
  • To the FSC: Do not issue any new FSC certificates to Royal Golden Eagle.

  1. Report on ecological damage and human rights violations by PT Mayawana Persada: Illegal expansion of timber plantations in West KalimantanThe report “Laporan Kerusakan Ekologis dan Pelanggaran HAM PT Mayawana Persada: Ugal-ugalan Ekspansi HTI di Kalimantan Barat” was submitted by the environmental and human rights organizations on December 28, 2023. The report is based on field research. On February 23, the coalition (WALHI West Kalimantan, Alliance of Indigenous People (AMAN) West Kalimantan, Link-AR Borneo and Satya Bumi) held a meeting with the provincial environment agency. 

  2. Deforestation Anonymous. Rainforest destruction and social conflict driven by PT Mayawana Persada in Indonesian Borneo

    The March 2024 study is based on the analysis of satellite data that shows how quickly and brutally Mayawana Persada is acting. The publishers are: Auriga Nusantara, Environmental Paper Network, Greenpeace, Woods and Wayside, and Rainforest Action Network.

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