By Morten Rønning
The Finnish Kværner subsidiary Tampella Power Oy is at the moment installing two recovery boilers for Riau Andalan, a contract worth NOK 500 million (see NorWatch Newsletter 17/97). The contract was sharply criticized last autumn, as the recipient of the boilers was among the companies pointed out by the Indonesian authorities as responsible for the giant forest fires raging on Sumatra.
Shortly after, the Finnish paper-giant UPM-Kymmene announced their plans to initiate a joint venture company together with April (Asia Pacific Resource International Holdings Ltd.) The plans include production of paper based on celulose from, among others, Riau Andalan.
Friends of the Earth, Finland, has initiated an international campaign to put pressure on UPM-Kymmene. The NGO has, in close cooperation with the Indonesian and European environmental movement, issued a public statement. The statement mentions three requirements that have to be fulfilled before any cooperation between the two companies should take place:
1. No more natural forests (even so called logged-over or degraded) are clear-cut and converted to monoculture plantations.
2. The traditional land tenure rights (adat) of the local communities are fully recognized within the concession area and in other areas where the company is active.
3. If the communities agree in a democratic and open process to allow logging, plantations or construction in their lands, they must be fully compensated.
The FoE initiative led to meetings between the Finnish company and the environmental movement, and the joint-venture proposal was discussed at the company's general meeting. UPM-Kymmene rejected the criticism, and referred to the evaluation that was under way by the verification company SGS on Riau Andalan.
"Living one day without paper is more difficult than one day without water. Just try it yourself!"
Juha Niemela of UPM-Kymmene, at the company's general assembly, on the topic of their cooperation with April.
The SGS report
On April 23 this year, SGS issued their report. The report was inadequate even from the outset. The report only looked at Riau Andalan's forestry work in their own concession areas. This means that neither the celulose factory, nor adjoining areas where others did forestry work for the company, were scrutinized.
SGS spent only five days on their work, and April decided what villages to evaluate and what places to visit. No public meetings were held in any of the villages.
The SGS report does not follow the guidelines set up by the international certification organization Forest Stewartship Council (FSC) for this kind of reports. For example, the report fails to have gathered information from all affected parties.
In spite of this, the SGS report supports most of the criticism that has been raised against Riau Andalan. For example, SGS asserts that working conditions are not up to par, and that the forestry activities reduce opportunities for traditional hunting and gathering activities. SGS also notes that Riau Andalan does not comply with the FSC requirements for forestry.
On the environmental side, weak protection of endangered species and the fact that the company does not leave sufficiently greenbelts around their felling concessions, are among the mentioned blameworthy aspects of the company's work. The SGS also points out that even if the authorities claim that they do not grant felling concessions in primeval forest, this forest could, if protected, still function as such forest.
Worldwatch is skeptical
At the publication of the Finnish issue of 'State of the World' in April, Lester Brown, head of the Worldwatch Institute, commented on the plans for a joint venture company. The report emphasizes that countries like Indonesia which are susceptible to corruption are "vulnerable targets for resident and foreign companies who are looking for cheap wood".
- UPM-Kymmene should carefully reconsider their cooperation with the Indonesian timber conversion company April, said Lester Brown in Helsinki.
He also expressed concern for what this could, in time, lead to for the Finnish timber conversion industry. In this connection, he pointed to the fact that the Swedish industry was recently certified by the FSC.
Norwatch Newsletter 12/98