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Illegal plantations & logging in the Leuser Ecosystem in North Sumatra and Aceh, Indonesia

The Leuser Ecosystem, the only region in the world where elephants, orangutans, tigers and rhinos co-exist, is threatened by accelerated expansion of oil palm plantations and logging.


The Leuser Ecosystem is the only region in the world where elephants, orangutans, tigers and rhinos co-exist. It is Sumatra’s largest rainforest, Asia’s largest carbon sink and has received the World Heritage Status by UNESCO as well as protection under national law. Campaigns for the protection of the ecosystem date back to the early 1800s, when traditional leaders in the province set out to convince the Dutch colonial government of the importance of its conservation [1].  

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Illegal plantations & logging in the Leuser Ecosystem in North Sumatra and Aceh, Indonesia
State or province:North Sumatra & Aceh
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Deforestation
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific commodities:Land
Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Project area:2,500,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2013
Company names or state enterprises:PT Aloer Timur
PT Asdal
PT Bahruny
PT Bukit Safa
PT Cemerlang Abadi
PT Dua Perkasa Lestari
PT Ensem Sawita
PT Gelora Sawita Makmur
PT Kallista Alam
PT Laot Bangko
PT Matras
PT Mestika Prima Lestari Indah
PT Mitra Tamiang Utama
PT Perkebunan Nusantara I Blang Tualang
PT Perkebunan Nusantara I Krueng Luas
PT Perkebunan Nusantara I Lamie
PT Putri Hijau
PT Rongoh Mas Lestari
PT Saudara Adi Megah
PT Semadam
PT Sinar Kaloy Perkasa
PT Sisirau
PT Surya Panen Subur II
PT Tegas Nusantara
PT Tenggulun Raya
PT Wajar Corpora
PT Watu Gede Utama
PT Woyla Raya Abadi
Relevant government actors:Aceh regional government, national government
International and Finance Institutions
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:• Hutan Alam dan Lingkungan Aceh (HAkA) []
• Forum Konservasi Leuser (FKL) []
• Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) []
• Aceh Citizen Lawsuit Movement (GeRAM)
• Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) []
• PanEco Foundation []
• Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) []
• Rainforest Action Network (RAN) []
• Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) []
• Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU)
• Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indoneisa, or WALHI []
• Leuser International Foundation []
• Flora Fauna International []
• Leuser Ecosystem Alliance
• Love the Leuser Ecosystem []
Conflict and Mobilization
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Boycotts of companies-products
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Fires
Potential: Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Global warming, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Development of alternatives:All actors wish for a cancellation of the Aceh Spatial Plan and a development new spatial plan to be developed that is aligned with the interests and wellbeing of affected communities and the ecosystem as such (RAN, 2018c).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Although there has been a reduction in illegal logging and destructive activities in the ecosystem, the Spacial Plan is still in place. As such, the wish of the involved EJOs and affected communities have not been met.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Law No. 11/2006 on Aceh Governance

Law No. 26/2007 Juncto 26/2008 on Spatial planning. Special legal status of the Leuser Ecosystem: National Strategic Area for its Environmental Protection Function

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Van Beukering, P., Cesar, H. & Jansson, M. (2002). Economic Valuation of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra. ASEAN Biodiversity, April-June 2002

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[10]. Aceh's Citizen Lawsuit: A Protracted Tug-of-War Over the Future of the Leuser Ecosystem
[click to view]

[14]. The Snack Food 20
[click to view]

[6]. Aceh's purge of illegal oil palm at 3.000 hectares and counting
[click to view]

[2] Local NGOs: Ecosystem services not orangutans key to saving Leuser.
[click to view]

[13] Preventing Deforestation: Region Profile Leuser
[click to view]

[4] Destruction
[click to view]

[8] The Leuser Ecosystem.
[click to view]

[11] Stand in Solidarity with the Aceh Citizen Movement
[click to view]

[1] The Leuser Ecosystem
[click to view]

[9] Protecting the Leuser Ecosystem: a shared responsibility
[click to view]

[5] The Last Place on Earth.
[click to view]

[3] Deforestation wanes in Indonesia's Aceh and Leuser Ecosystem but threats remain NGO says
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[12] HaKa, 2016b. GeRAM: Gerakan Rakyat Aceh Menggugat - FULL documentary
[click to view]

Other documents

Source: RAN. The Last Place on Earth
[click to view]

Source: RAN. The Leuser Ecosystem
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Emmy Iwarsson (ICTA-UAB)
Last update28/05/2018
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