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Mustika Sembuluh, oil palm plantations in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

Two decades after palm oil arrived in Danau Sembuluh, conflicts are still in place. Despite the owner of the plantation area changed in 2007, the situation has not improved. Local communities continue to strugglefor justice.


Since the mid-1990s conflicts have arisen in Danau Sembuluh (where PT Mustika Sembuluh -PT MS- operates) as a consequence of palm oil expansion. Three villages are located within the PT MS area: Desa Pondok Damar, Desa Tanah Putih and Desa Bangkal. The majority of the population of the area are indigenous Dayak Temuan.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Mustika Sembuluh, oil palm plantations in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
State or province:East Kotawaringin, Central Kalimantan
Location of conflict:Danau Sembuluh
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:Deforestation
Water access rights and entitlements
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The expansion of oil palm monocultures is central to Central Kalimantan’s development strategy: around 1,000,000 ha are planted and 3,500,000ha allocated to future oil palm plantations.

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Project area:22,011 ha
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:6,128
Start of the conflict:1995
Company names or state enterprises:PT Mustika Sembuluh (PT MS) from Indonesia
Wilmar International from Singapore
PPB Group Berhad from Malaysia
Relevant government actors:Environment Office, Plantations Office and Forestry Office of East Kotawaringin
Plantations Offcie of West Kalimantan
Minister of Agriculture
International and Finance InstitutionsRoundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) (RSPO)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Save our Borneo, WALHI Kalteng, Forest People Programme, Sawit Watch
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Global warming
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:The local communities would like to implement the agreement between PT MS and Pondok Damar village (2012) over pollution of water, get compensation for land grabbed without consent, get job opportunities for the community and be prioritized, be informed about legal status of the company operations, be consulted and invited to negotiation about areas of High Conservation Value, designation of 6 ha of land in Pondok Damar for village use, enclavement of the former location of Pondok Damar village, resolution of any ongoing land conflicts, implementation of well-informed plasma scheme*, be invited to negotiations over river and road blocking, be provided with any relevant document.
*Plasma schemes are cooperarative programmes introduced by the Indonesian government -in theory- to enable smallholders to become independent oil palm growers. The small farmers produce for large agribusinesses and receive assistance in the form of loans, knowledge, etc. in exchange.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Disputes are still ongoing after more than 10 years. The local communities complaints have not been attended and customary rights to land have been violated without proper compensation.
Nevertheless, PT MS enjoys RSPO certifcation.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] “The Oil Palm Sector: Community Grievances and Water Governance in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia”
[click to view]

[2] Chao, et al., 2013. PT Mustika Sembuluh and the Dayak Temuan of Central Kalimantan. In: Chao, et al., 2013. “Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads” Ch3
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[3] “Why not Wilmar?” by Down to Earth, a monitoring service for environment and development in Indonesia
[click to view]

“Bid Wilmar oil palm plantation without plasma” by blog FUTURE (in Indonesian)
[click to view]

Mongabay is an environmental science and conservation news and information site. The article mentions complains in Pondok Damar over water pollution derived from palm oil plantations (in Indonesian)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Clàudia Custodio
Last update17/04/2017
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