INDONESIA (From news reports) -- As many as 10,000 tree seedlings have been planted on degraded land in Riau province by giant paper producer Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a subsidiary of Sinar Mas Group.
Held in collaboration with the Environment and Forestry Ministry and related stakeholders, the planting was conducted on Tuesday on 20 hectares of land in the Giam Siak Kecil (GSK) area in Teluk Rimba village, Koto Gasip district, Siak regency --an area known as a habitat of Sumatran tigers and elephants.
APP Sinar Mas sustainability and stakeholder engagement director Elim Sritaba said such planting had been conducted since 2015 in 10 main areas across Sumatra and Kalimantan.
"This is a form of APP Sinar Mas' commitment to supporting forest restoration and protection in Indonesia," Elim said.
She said the initiative emerged after plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki of Yokohama National University, Japan, visited the conservation area of APP Sinar Mas subsidiaries in 2014. The professor recommended the planting of endemic species such as meranti, jelutong and other local species to speed up the restoration of damaged forests.
"Until present, 42,000 trees of different local species have been planted in 87 ha of forests in the conservation areas of APP Sinar Mas' wood suppliers," she said.
The company, she added, always involved local communities in the planting to help improve public awareness of the importance of protecting forests from illegal logging. Those involved in return have enjoyed benefits from nonwood products like tree saps and fruits from the restored forests.
"Doing this also contributes to slowing down climate change," she said.
The move received appreciation from Great Forest Wall Project executive director Makoto Nikkawa, who makes an effort to join the program annually. "Planting trees in Riau has become sort of a tradition that I must attend although the location is far from Japan."
Nikkawa said the activity had a positive impact globally, namely battling climate change while at the same time maintaining a harmonious relationship between humankind and the environment.
"Sustainable development is crucial now, especially for forestry-based businesses. We need to maintain a balance that benefits all parties."
Another regular Japanese volunteer, Yoshiko Sakai, expressed hope that such activities would continue in the future considering that Indonesian forests are the world's lungs and a precious treasure for refreshing the Earth.
"That's why we have to continue planting [trees]," she said.
The head of the Production Forest Management Office (KPKP) Minas Tahura, Zailani, suggested that reforestation efforts be expanded to other conservation areas, not just within the company's concessions.
"There are many degraded areas outside the concessions," said Zailani, adding that of the Tahura (people's forest park) Sultan Syarif Hasyim's total area of 6,172 ha, only some 2,000 ha were still intact.
He said the government still needed third parties' help to cover wider reforestation efforts. Near GSK, he said, were almost 2,000 ha of degraded conservation areas.
"Hopefully the reforestation efforts initiated by APP can be expanded in that direction," he said.