Indonesian politician gets 14 years for illegal logging permits

The former governor of Riau Province in Sumatra, Indonesia has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for issuing illegal logging permits.  The Riau region has suffered catastrophic forest loss over the last decade.

Legal?  Forest clearing by APRIL in Sumatra (photo by William Laurance)

Legal?  Forest clearing by APRIL in Sumatra (photo by William Laurance)

An anti-corruption court in Sumatra found former Governor Rusli Zainai guilty of embezzlement in relation to the logging permits and several construction projects.

The illegal permits were issued to subsidiaries of APP (Asian Pulp & Paper) and APRIL (Asia Pacific Resources International Limited), two major producers of wood pulp in Sumatra.  The two mega-corporations have logged and cleared several million hectares of native rainforest for their pulp plantations.

After years of being vilified internationally, both APP and APRIL now claim to be cleaning up their acts environmentally, bringing in 'no deforestation' policies (see our blog below). 

Predatory...   Rainforest timber stockpiled outside APRIL's Riau woodpulp plant (photo by William Laurance)

Predatory...   Rainforest timber stockpiled outside APRIL's Riau woodpulp plant (photo by William Laurance)

At least initially, APP appears to be passing muster, but the jury is still out on APRIL.

Some, however, believe the corporations are getting off too lightly, and along with crooked politicians should also be facing prosecution for their recent legacy of corruption and predatory behavior. 

Is 'killer smog' returning to Southeast Asia?

The 'killer' smog that has often plagued Southeast Asia might be coming back. 

Another fire for oil palm...

Another fire for oil palm...

Fires are burning across central Sumatra, Indonesia, where thousands of people are in respiratory distress and a state of emergency has been declared

Around 1500 fires, mostly illegal, have been detected in Sumatra's Riau Province alone. 

The fires are attributable to an early dry season, rampant land-use change, and little government control over forest burning.

In past years, such fires have blanketed much of Malaysia and Singapore in a dense smog, creating a health hazard for millions of residents--many of whom don face-masks when venturing outside. 

The fires are being mostly blamed on forest clearing for oil palm plantations.  Indonesia is being faulted for failing to ratify an ASEAN agreement to monitor and combat forest fires and for not publicly releasing maps showing which companies own the lands being burned.