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WWF warns over pulp giant in Indonesia

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Conservation group WWF has said that one of the world's largest paper and pulp companies is failing to live up to pledges to help protect some of Indonesia's most important remaining forests.

A new WWF monitoring report showed that Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) was threatening crucial forests despite commitments made to its buyers.

According to the report, the company has been responsible for about 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of natural forest loss every year, equivalent to roughly one-half of the forests lost annually in Riau province on Sumatra.

As of 2005, Singapore-based APP controlled nearly one-fifth, or 520,000 hectares, of the natural forests left on Riau's mainland, it said.

"All these forests are under threat, as are any additional forests that APP acquires in its quest to fill its wood supply gap and expand pulp production," said WWF-Indonesia's Nazir Foead in a statement.

WWF estimates that around 450,000 hectares of forest have been cleared over the past five years to supply APP's pulp mill in Riau alone.

"APP's failure to commit to the protection of high conservation value forests means that many more hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests will go the same route," Foead warned.

Such forests have a critical importance due to their environmental, socio-economic, biodiversity or landscape values.

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

APP had previously committed to protecting several blocks of such forest but monitoring showed they had exposed them to illegal logging and fires.

"By refusing to protect HCVFs, APP is endangering the very survival of the tigers, elephants and other species that inhabit Indonesia's forests," Foead added.

A spokesman for APP parent company Sinar Mas Group, Yan Partawijaya, declined to comment, saying that he needed to hold talks with various executives from four APP Indonesian units.

The four are PT Indah Kiat Pulp Paper, PT Lontar Papyrus, PT Pindo Deli and PT Pabrik Kertas Tjiwi Kimia.

The units together defaulted on debt worth 6.7 billion dollars in March 2001, amounting to what may have been one of the largest corporate defaults in emerging markets history.


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