Fifty-three hectares of oil palm plantations have been demolished in Riau because they encroached on parts of Tesso Nilo National Park.
National park head Hayani Suprahman said there were 350 hectares of additional oil palm plantations in Bagan Limau, Pelalawan regency, Riau, that would also soon be demolished.
Bagan Limau was included in the operation as there were many newly arrived residents living there, Hayani said.
“The newcomers are easy to deal with. They are not like the local residents who usually resist any attempt to order them around,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
“The area of encroachment easily inspires conflict due to the fact that many people have certificates for certain plots of land,” he said.
He said the management of the national park initially uses legal methods, as the encroachment of forests should be handled through the courts.
Stern action will be taken only after the court issues a legal order, he said.
Hayani added that oil palm encroachment at Tesso Nilo National Park reached 28,000 hectares, or 34 percent of the park.
Most of the areas in the national park that were illegally encroached upon by plantations were located on former forest concessions belonging to state-owned forestry company PT Inhutani IV and the privately owned PT Nanjak Makmur. The concessions were revoked by the Forestry Ministry to expand the park last year, he said.
“Those encroaching upon the forests occupied a large part long before they were included in the park’s expansion,” he said, adding that this was easily done as the former concessions were left without any supervision.
Hayani said all illegal oil palm plantations in the national park will be demolished, even though they will be hindered by limited personnel and lack of money.
“To destroy 53 hectares of oil palm plantations requires more than Rp 300 million for the use of heavy machinery,” he said.
“The most important thing here is there is a kind of a shock-therapy. The message is clear that the national park is not to be used for oil palm plantations or any other purposes,” he said.
Persuasion will be employed if the owners of the illegal plantations do not want to destroy the trees themselves. “If we are not strict enough, they will think we do not have the guts to act,” he said.
The demolished plantations will immediately be planted with forest trees in order to try and return the sites to their original conditions.
Hayani promised people living near the national park will be allowed to use the rehabilitated lands. “There will be certain regulations for that. The important thing here is that they are not permitted to fell trees,” he said.