APP Posing Threat to Forest: WWF

JAKARTA ~ Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest paper companies, poses a threat to a massive peatland forest in Sumatra sheltering rare animals, conservation group WWF said in a report.

The report accuses APP of hiding “its continued destruction of natural tropical rainforests that house Sumatran tigers and elephants” in the 400,000-hectare (nearly one million acres) Kampar Peninsula in Riau province.

APP is gearing up to clear forest that lies on top of a deep peat dome despite proposals by WWF and the Sumatra-based environmental group Jikalahari to turn the area into a national park, the report said.

“If APP would abide by its own ‘conservation beyond compliance’ propaganda, none of this forest would be cleared,” Nazir Foead, WWF-Indonesia director of policy and corporate engagement, said in the report.

“But apparently the company decided to run a global propaganda campaign rather than protect forests with high conservation values,” he said.

APP has pulped close to a million hectares of Riau’s natural forests since it began operation in 1980s, the report said.

The WWF said that at a meeting in June, APP refused to guarantee that high-conservation-value forests would be excluded from its future logging and wood sourcing operations.

“APP simply cannot afford to protect natural forests as it needs wood to keep its pulp mill running,” Foead said, adding that the firm would continue to pulp the remaining forests until “none are left to be cut.”

No APP spokespeople were available for comment.

The firm defaulted on debt worth US$6.7 billion in March 2001, amounting to what may have been one of the largest corporate defaults in emerging-markets history.

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