We are happy to see the results of the recent study by CS ERM (Centre for Sustainable Energy and Resources Management), Universitas Nasional (UNAS) of the biodiversity and orangutan population living within and adjacent to the company's 1,812 ha Area of Influence (henceforth AOI). We also note that the AOI is now significantly smaller than the company's previous location permit for exploration, as the exploration phase has been completed. The company has also purchased 669 ha of land already and will purchase additional necessary areas required for the project's development within the AOI, and the remainder of the current 1,812 ha location permit will eventually also be handed back to the government, as required by Indonesian law.
The CSERM study examined in detail the scale and extent of the NSHE operation and its direct impacts on the ground, in light of concerns that have been expressed about the project's impacts on the Critically Endangered Tapanuli, orangutan whose numbers in the wild have been estimated during previous surveys to be around 767 individuals. We hope, with this study, that many of the concerns have been addressed, and that future discussions will be based only on the facts, and the actual reality on the ground.
The study concludes that the impacts, mostly due to loss of orangutan habitat, can be categorized into 'permanent loss' and 'temporary loss'. Of the habitat loss that has occurred to date, between 2017 and 2019, a total of 371.68 ha :
- 86.47 Ha is permanent loss that should be off-set
- 285.21 ha is temporary loss that will be restored.
We acknowledge that the location of the company's AOI will not impact the potential for a future habitat corridor linking the East Batang Toru Forest Block to the West Batang Toru Forest Block, and hence the East orangutan population with the West population, which are almost certainly already separated by the trans Sumatra highway and the Batang Toru river.
We also seek the support of government, local communities and other stakeholders to ensure a habitat corridor is maintained, and strengthened, to maintain gene flow between the orangutan population in the Dolok Sibual-buali Nature Reserve and the West population, across the wider landscape and the company's AOI itself.
The CSERM survey results presented today by Didik Prasetyo, PhD and Yok Yok Hadiprakarsa MSc, confirm there are orangutans and orangutan habitat throughout the AOL The study estimates orangutan density in the AOI to be around 0.32 individuals per km2, which equates to an average of around 6 orangutans using the AOI at any given point in time. Given the large, overlapping home ranges of orangutans, however, the total number of individual orangutans that actually use NSHE's AOI is almost certainly more than 6 individuals. Exactly how many individual orangutans use the area, however, and how frequently they use it requires further study.
We strongly support the continued study and monitoring of the orangutan population in the area of NSHE and their efforts to mitigate their direct and indirect impacts on all orangutans using their AOI, such as:
- Maintaining intact forests;
- Restoring cleared forest areas;
- Restricting public access;
- Implementing SMART patrols;
- Building wildtife crossing structures;
- Use of road-crossing signs
- Creating offset areas for permanent habitat loss
- Ensuring that orangutans can freely cross beneath the power line infrastructure proposed within the AOI.
- Awareness raising and conservation education to the population surrounding NSHE project area in particular as an obligation and contribute to the program in larger Batang Toru area
With these mitigation efforts the impacts of the company will be minimal, and its activities will not lead to the extinction of the Tapanuli orangutan. Nevertheless, we must emphasise that the future of the species is dependent not just on what happens within the AOI, but on what happens outside it as well in the broader landscape. For the long-term viability of the Tapanuli orangutan, there is a critical need to maintain and increase habitat connectivity and t-o reduce habitat loss, hunting, and human-orangutan conflict throughout the entire Batang Toru Ecosystem. To maximise the survival prospects for the spedes, we recommend that stakeholders from the private sector, government, and local community should join us to increase connectivity in two key locations: from the West Batang Toru Forest block to the East Batang Toru Forest block, and from the West block through the south east (Sitandiang/Sibual-Buali) corridor landscape to the Dolak Sibual-buali Nature Reserve. We also highlight the need for increased monitoring efforts to reduce deforestation and hunting, and to minimise human-orangutan conflicts.
We see opportunities for upgrading currently unprotected Tapanuli orangutan habitat to protected status and for upgrading already protected forests to even higher levels of protection. Opportunities exist too for restoring and rehabilitating previously damaged or degraded forests. There is also a need to initiate community livelihood programmes and develop new sustainable livelihood initiatives, tied to conservation goals and activities, to create win-win situations for both communities and the Tapanuli orangutan alike.
Given the high degree of national and international attention on the fate of the Tapanuli orangutan species, it is essential that all stakeholders with an influence in the region come together to mitigate the range of threats that face it. Rather than the NSHE hydro-electric project leading to the extinction of the Tapanuli orangutan, we call on all stakeholders to seize the opportunity to strengthen protection and connectivity of the remaining wild populations of this, probably the most endangered great ape species in the world, and ensure their survival tong lnto the future. Only by protecting the entire Batang Toru Ecosystem can we prevent the extinction of the Tapanuli orangutan.
Medan, 19th February 2020
Emmy Hafild Dr. Ian Singleton, Dr.Jito Sugarjito
Senior Advisor PT NSHE PanEco Foundation CSERM & Ketua Executive Committee PanE:co-NSHE Cooperation