Aceh Pulls Plug on Kallista Plantation
Banda Aceh. Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah has revoked the business permit for a palm oil plantation in Rawa Dipa, a lush forest and peatland region in the province’s Nagan Raya district.
The move to close the estate, which is owned by plantation firm Kallista Alam, was hailed as a victory by environmentalists, who have sought to see the stretch of land protected.
Makmur Ibrahim, the Aceh administration’s legal and public relations bureau head, said that the governor signed the revocation letter on Thursday to comply with a ruling issued by the Medan High Court on Aug. 30, ordering the permit to be pulled.
“It’s not possible to file an appeal on the High Court’s ruling and that’s the basis of [our decision],” Makmur said on Friday. “All of PT Kallista’s activity on the 1,605-hectare plantation must stop. It will be a violation of the law if it continues to operate.”
He added that Aceh’s Forestry and Plantation Agency will monitor the company to ensure that it complies with the order.
The company obtained the permit to open the plantation from then governor Irwandi Yusuf in August 2011.
But the governor’s decision was met with protests by environmental activists who said that the area was the habitat of Sumatran orangutans, which are critically endangered, and other rare animals.
The Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) dragged the governor to the Aceh state administrative court but the court rejected Walhi’s suit on April 3. Walhi then appealed the ruling to the Medan High Court.
Walhi Aceh praised the governor’s willingness to comply with the law.
“The order from the Medan High Court is clear that the Aceh governor has to revoke the permit for PT Kallista’s 1,605 hectare plantation in Rawa Tripa,” Walhi Aceh director T. Muhammad Zulfikar said. “The Aceh administration has to execute the ruling because if not, it will be in violation of the law.”
Zulfikar said that Rawa Tripa is part of the Leuser Ecosystem Area, which is considered a strategic national zone that is protected.
The permit originally allowed the firm to set up shop in the Tripa peat area, which was within the boundary of a deforestation moratorium area on a map that had been published in 2011. Critics claim that the permit should not have been issued because companies aren’t allowed to do damage to protected areas.
A government-formed task force later concluded that Kallista Alam had violated regulations by turning the swamp forest into a plantation.