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Oil palm expansion on Tripa swamp forest, South Aceh, Indonesia


Oil palm is today the fastest growing monoculture in the tropics. Indonesia is the world's largest producer. The country has witnessed a massive conversion of customary (adat) land to oil palm (and fast-wood) plantations. Between 1967 and 2007, oil palm monocultures have increased about 50 times and the government is planning to expand the area under plantation. In the present case, a land dispute between local farmers and the oil palm plantation company erupted into a violent conflict. After several months of attempts to negotiate over land rights, hundreds of angry villagers went to the company’s base camp and told the staff to leave. They took away vehicles, heavy machinery and a generator before burning the base camp to the ground. A security police post was also burnt down. No one was killed, but six people were shot and injured (two seriously) and 49 were held in custody after security forces moved in. The villagers claim that the company has violated their land rights. The Government of South Aceh is seemingly moving to find a solution to the controversy. The government settled compensation to the farmers, which would also be given 1000 ha of land to make up for that taken from them by the company. In January 2014, a court case launched by Walhi was won. Walhi said that the groundbreaking verdict is the result of just one of several civil and criminal prosecutions underway against PT Kallista Alam and four other oil palm companies with concessions in the Tripa swamp forest, namely PT Surya Panen Subur II, PT Dua Perkasa Lestari, PT Gelora Sawita Makmur, and PT Cemerlang Abadi. "Each faces the possibility of serious financial consequences as a result of their illegal clearance, burning, and drainage of Tripa’s unique peat swamp ecosystem. Some of the company directors and members of senior management also risk prison terms in cases against them for their actions on the ground," said Walhi.

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Oil palm expansion on Tripa swamp forest, South Aceh, Indonesia
State or province:Sumatra
Location of conflict:Kuala Batee, South Aceh
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Project area:6,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1998
End of the conflict:1998
Company names or state enterprises: PT Cemerlang Abdi
Relevant government actors:Government of South Aceh
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:WAHLI
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Forms of mobilization:Property damage/arson
- Material confiscation (protesters took away vehicles, heavy machinery and a generator)
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Imprisonment of protesters
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The 2014 court case can be seen as a success for environmental justice.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

WRM Bulletin Nº12 (May 1998)
[click to view]

McCarthy, J.F., 2006. The fourth circle: a political ecology of Sumatra’s rainforest frontier. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Palm Oil Company Fined Millions for Burning Sumatran Forest
[click to view]

Palm Oil Company fined Millions as Indonesian Court delivers historic ruling against illegal destruction of Tripa Peat Swamp Forests
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:J.-F. Gerber
Last update15/09/2017
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