This article was produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Survey Network.
North Kalimantan, Indonesia —baby wipes supplier Jonni Spedika stared at the neat rows of trees, clenching his chin.To outsiders, it may look like a peaceful forest.For Spedica and his villagers, this is a serious threat.
“This should not be allowed,” said Spedica, the former mayor of one of the main villages here.
Borneo ironwood and other tropical hardwood trees have long covered this rugged island in Indonesia.A large number of wild boars are the main source of food for the locals, and they roam in the tropical rain forest near their home.Trees stand undisturbed, nourish the soil below, consume a lot of carbon dioxide, and promote climate change.
But the tree that angered Spedica on that October day was not old ironwood or avocado.They are eucalyptus trees recently planted by the timber supply company PT.Experts say that Adindo Hutani Lestari, they represent the decline of one of the most important rainforest systems in the world.
Adindo and its competitors have been doing business in the region for a long time.Over the years, they have cut down large tracts of old trees to make way for tree plantations.The wood is transported to the factory, where it is dissolved into pulp and spun into a breathable fabric that is ubiquitous in the United States: viscose rayon.
Viscose rayon is used in clothing, from haute couture dresses to T-shirts to sportswear.It is touted as environmentally friendly because it comes from a renewable resource: trees.
But it is also one of the products that caused the destruction of the Indonesian rainforest.Plantations built on cleared land can continuously supply commodities such as new wood or palm oil, usually from a single tree species.
The plantation blends with the surrounding forest.But experts say they can also dry out the land, increase the risk of fires, and destroy the natural habitats of various plants and animals.
“It’s like they stole our ocean,” Spedica said, noting that the pigs and other animals he had hunted had disappeared.
Ruth DeFries, professor of ecology and sustainable development at Columbia University in New York, said that plantation forests are highly destructive to biodiversity in tropical rainforest areas.
“Planting a single species of trees is a very different ecosystem from the tropical rainforest with millions of species,” said De Vries, who has done research in Indonesia.
She added: “One of the best times I spent there was following a person who was studying orangutans.” “It was heartbreaking to see their habitat destroyed.”
Deforestation in places like Indonesia will also have a wider impact.One acre of forests absorbs almost no carbon dioxide as much as one acre of rainforest.
A study of baby wipes supplier published in the journal Nature Communications in 2018 found that every hectare of tropical rainforest in Indonesia converted into palm oil plantations would reduce 174 tons of carbon, most of which ultimately exist in the air in the form of carbon dioxide.
“Converting rainforest to plantation is not a one-to-one trade-off,” said Gillian Galford, a climate scientist at the University of Vermont, who was not involved in the study.”As we have seen in Southeast Asia, deforestation is one of the primary factors leading to climate change.”
A series of industries have promoted the division of tropical forests in Indonesia. Indonesia has the third largest tropical rain forest area in the world after the Amazon and Congo Basin.
Since the 1960s, palm oil, paper and coffee companies have cut down large areas of forests that are home to endangered species such as Sumatran orangutans and tigers.
Until the late 1990s, environmental damage and the role of large enterprises were largely ignored.In the past decade, the pressure movement has prompted companies to pay closer attention to their supply chains and take measures to limit the degradation of tropical rainforests.
The measures have paid off.The rate of deforestation in Indonesia last year fell to the lowest level since the government started tracking it in 1990.
According to data from the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, overall, the country lost approximately 115,000 hectares of forest cover (approximately 400 square miles) in 2020.
This is equivalent to the area of Los Angeles, but it is 75% lower than in 2019.The economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is believed to be the main factor in the sharp decline, but the deforestation rate has been steadily increasing, according to government data, which has declined since 2015.
Some environmental groups estimate that the country will lose more forest cover in 2020, but they do not deny that deforestation has decreased in the past five years.
According to the analysis of the non-profit organization Auriga and other local environmental organizations, the country has lost approximately 13 million hectares [50,000 square miles] of natural forest cover since 2000—the equivalent of the area of Alabama.The vast majority are driven by palm oil and other agriculture (such as coffee), but pulp plantations have also replaced large tracts of rainforest.
Although the rate of destruction of tropical rainforests has slowed, environmentalists worry that the demand for pulpwood used in the production of paper and viscose will drive more deforestation.
Viscose fiber is derived from cellulose in wood and is a key component of daily necessities such as baby wipes and masks.When it becomes a fabric, it is called viscose rayon.
Viscose rayon was first born more than 100 years ago.This plant-based fabric is cheaper and more durable than silk, and is advertised in fashion circles as sustainable and biodegradable.In recent years, it has become very popular and has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.
But some major companies in the viscose fiber supply chain have been criticized for contributing to the destruction of tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia.
Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (APRIL Group) is the second largest pulp and paper company in Indonesia and has long faced allegations of deforestation.It sources timber from a number of suppliers, including Adindo, which controls land on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan (also known as Borneo).
In June 2015, APRIL pledged to stop logging natural forests.The announcement was made after some of its competitors made similar promises and were praised by environmental organizations.
The company has made significant progress in restricting deforestation.But since APRIL made its commitment, some APRIL suppliers, including Adindo, have been accused of clearing complete tropical rain forests.
In October 2020, a coalition of environmental organizations released a report on deforestation on the land of Addindo based on satellite images and land cover classification maps produced by the Indonesian government.
According to the report, between June 2015 and August 31, 2020, nearly 7,300 hectares (28 square miles) of natural forest in the Addindo concession area was cleared.According to reports, half of the deforestation occurs in areas designated as “high conservation value” forests in Addindo.That report.According to Manulun, one of the lead authors, field reports and drone footage were also used to make decisions.
APRIL denied these allegations at the time, saying that no deforestation occurred in the areas cited in the report.APRIL stated that the land cleared in the Adindo concession area is located in designated planting areas, none of which includes “high conservation value” forest areas.
APRIL has also previously denied allegations that other suppliers have cleaned up trees since June 2015.
The physicist Edward Boyda is the co-founder of Earthrise, an environmental research group, and NBC News asked him to analyze the deforestation on approximately 4,200 square miles of land controlled by the APRIL timber supplier in Kalimantan.
Using NASA and commercial satellite imagery, Boida concluded that since the end of 2015, an estimated 30 square miles [7,700 hectares] of intact forest on the land has been cleared.He described 30 square miles as a conservative estimate.
Boyda said the image tells a story, starting with a continuous green canopy, and then turning into a larger and larger brown – what he called the “burn scars” of felled and cleared trees.He said the time-lapse images showed neat rows of plantations.
“You have gone from one of the most biologically diverse places in the world to a place that is essentially like a biological desert,” Boida said in an interview in Norway, describing the change from rainforest to tree plantation.
The company said in a statement that its analysis showed that most of the loss of tree cover cited by Boyda represents the logging of trees on existing plantations.
The company said: “These are obviously not activities that involve deforestation of intact forests, but are actually related to normal legal plantation harvesting and replanting and small-scale community agriculture.”
The APRIL Group noted that 1,400 hectares [5 square miles] of non-plantation land reportedly deforested less than 0.1% of all land controlled by its suppliers in Kalimantan.
APRIL added that the loss of tree cover detected on 1,400 hectares of land includes mixed areas that were “occupied or damaged by a third party”, and in some cases were the result of incorrect “remote sensing algorithms” due to local conditions, such as Cloudiness.
“Our company takes any allegations of illegal land cover changes very seriously and investigates all cases that we discover or come to our attention,” said APRIL Group.”If illegal activities are confirmed, we will ensure that they are quickly stopped and reported to the relevant authorities.”
The company also stated that it has fulfilled 81% of its commitment to protect or protect one hectare of natural forest per hectare of plantation.”For us, production and protection are interdependent, and one can realize the other,” said APRIL Group.
In November last year, APRIL wrote to the Forest Management Committee of the world’s top industry certification program, acknowledging that its past operations dating back to 1993 have “potential environmental and social hazards.”
Since its withdrawal from certification in 2013, APRIL has been prohibited from using the committee’s trademark to sell its paper and pulp products.The company stated that after three environmental organizations filed a lawsuit accusing APRIL of “participating in large-scale deforestation” in Indonesia, it withdrew due to concerns about FSC policy.
For several years, the company has been seeking to restore it to its original state.According to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the process is ongoing.
APRIL is managed by Royal Golden Eagle, a corporate group headquartered in Singapore that manages the paper, palm oil and viscose fiber businesses.
APRIL transports the wood from Kalimantan to the nearby island of Sumatra for processing, and then to another company managed by Sateri Royal Golden Eagle to operate a factory in China, where it is made into viscose fiber.The resulting material is similar to fluffy cotton.
Post time: Dec-22-2021