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Down to Earth No. 51, November 2001

Oil palm for mega-project site in Central Kalimantan

A huge oil palm development - covering 1.3 million hectares is to be developed on the site of the failed "PLG" rice mega-project in Central Kalimantan.

The provincial parliament has agreed to investment plans by Bomer Ltd (reportedly a Swiss-Malaysian company) to develop the area under the nucelus estate - small-holder model. Under the plan, 1 million hectares will be operated by small-holders and 300,000 ha by the nucleus estate, of which 40% will be operated by Bomer.

The company is reported to be investing Rp 5.5 trillion (US$550 million) in the project and has 3 million oil palm seedlings ready to plant.

"We support and welcome Bomer Ltd's investment plan" said the provincial parliament's leader HAS Fawzy, "as long as the company really does involve local people." Some of the communities whose lands were taken for the disastrous PLG mega-project are reported to be against any new investment until their long-standing claims for compensation have been met.

The PLG projected, launched by Suharto in 1995 as a means to guarantee Indonesia's rice self-sufficiency, devastated a huge area of peat-swamp forests and sparked some of the worst forest fires in the 1997-8 disaster. The project was officially cancelled by Suharto's successor, Habibie, but plans to turn the land over to oil palm plantations have been on the cards since before then. In the meantime, the transmigrants brought into the area and local Dayak communities whose resources were ruined, have been left to cope with the impacts.

At an international symposium on tropical peatlands in August, Indonesian ministers of research and technology, forestry, and environment outlined their government's "strong commitment to the sustainable use of Indonesia's peatland resources through sound science and wise use". A statement issued by the symposium included an appeal to the Indonesian government to uphold its commitment to prevent further development on peatland with peat over three metres in thickness. (This commitment was ignored during the development of the PLG area with the result that the peatland ecosystem was ruined.)
(Jakarta Statement on the Importance of Tropical Peatlands 23/Aug/01)

(Banjarmasin Post 18&22/Oct/01 forwarded by Sawitwatch.
See DTE's special report on transmigration, July 2001, p.4, for more on the PLG eco-disaster.
The report is online at

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