An Indonesian court has instructed the governor of Aceh province to revoke a controversial license owned by a palm oil company accused of destroying orangutan habitat and carbon-rich peatlands on the island of Sumatra.

Sumatran Orangutan in the Leuser ecosystem (photo by Rhett A. Butler)

The permit allowing PT Kallista Alam to establish a 1,605-hectare plantation in the Tripa peat swamp is controversial because it violated a country-wide moratorium on new concessions in peatlands and primary forests issued in 2011 by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. It was granted by the former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf more than three months after the moratorium went into effect.

Over the past 20 years Indonesia has had one of the highest rates of forest loss in the world, but in 2009 president Yudhoyono pledged to reduce deforestation as part of a commitment to slow greenhouse gas emissions.

A local environmental group — the Aceh chapter Walhi — filed suit against PT Kallista Alam and the Aceh government to test the central government’s commitment to the moratorium. The case garnered international interest for both its egregious nature — multiple regulations should have protected the land from conversion — and the presence of critically endangered orangutans.


Source: Mongabay.com and The Jakarta Post.

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