Sustainability and technology

    Satellite technology which protects the forests


    Significant help to safeguard forests arrives from the sky. For three years APP has entered into a co-operation agreement with MDA for the use of data supplied by FAS – Forest Alert Service – the satellite monitoring system of forests; as a guarantee of the commitment made for the defence and sustainable exploitation of the planet’s forest resources.

    Attention to the provenance of wood fibre from certified forests is one of the cornerstones of the environmental policy of APP (Asia Pulp & Paper), – producer of cellulose and paper in Indonesia and China – for this reason the group is concerned to implement a series of activities and better practices to support sustainability, relying on systems which ensure a correct chain of custody.

    Since 2016 APP has started an new collaboration with MDA,a MaxarTechnologiescompany– an American giant in the spatial technology sector, specialising in the production of communication systems, satellites and radar for observing the Earth – with the aim of taking advantage of the service created by MDA for monitoring forest resources.

    The FAS Service

    Identified by the acronym FAS – Forest Alert Service – the system is based on using MDA’s RadarSAT-2 satellite, which can supply information and images in real time of various geographical areas of the planet. Thanks to its enormous imaging capacity and rapid processing times, the satellite supplies frequently updated data and is a primary source of information on the state of the natural resources of various regions of the Earth. Being able to penetrate clouds and rain, and to operate independently from atmospheric conditions and light, the satellite can even identify less visible anomalies in the forest, even in areas which are very restricted – of only 0.5 hectares.

    Thanks entirely to the work carried out by RadarSAT-2 and its capacity, the monitoring system can check an area of about 3.8 million hectares every 24 days and supply, in a timely manner, generally within two days from the survey, information on the state of the forests. The FAS service therefore enables APP suppliers of cellulose pulp to more accurately monitor the conservation of the forest areas and to thus respect the commitments made to safeguard the forest resources.

    The sky’s help really appears to have borne fruit: according to Asia Pulp & Paper, from the time when it started to collaborate with MDA -namely about three years ago – the loss of virgin forests in their own suppliers’ licences in a conservation area of more than 600 thousand hectares has reduced considerably, going from 5-6% to barely 0.06%.

    The positive effects of the system

    The monitoring in the production areas is structured in such a way that it enables the identification of any changes in the area covered by forests to be addressed rapidly. This therefore enables much more efficient planning to be undertaken for its exploitation, at the same time reducing to a minimum the number of infringements – which unfortunately still occur, despite the work carried out – and thus further protecting the forest heritage.

    The project is part of the activities that APP is putting into place for the responsible management and safeguarding of the Indonesian forest, an objective stated in its “Forest Conservation Policy” introduced in 2013 and in which the group subscribes to its own commitment towards the Sustainability Roadmap Vision 2020. The project’s target is the complete removal, by next year, of products derived from natural forests within the whole supply chain.

    The collaboration with MDA therefore becomes even more important because, as Elim Sritaba, Director of Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement of APP, explains, it enables the “rapid monitoring and investigation of the conditions of the forests where we are operating, so as to resolve problems and preserve our precious natural resources”. Ultimately it represents another step towards more responsible and sustainable management of the forests.

     Forests: protagonists of sustainable development

    The importance of protecting and preserving the planet’s resources is a collective awareness to which even the United Nations have been working for a while, to the extent that since 2013 the International Day of Forests is celebrated each 21 March.

    According to studies carried out by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) over a period of twenty years, between 1990 and 2010,about 5.3 million hectares of forest have been lost each year worldwide.

    In the latest report on the “State of the World’s Forests” published in 2018, the FAO emphasises how it is vital to stop deforestation, manage woods and forests sustainably, restore the areas which have been degraded over the years and increase existing ones. The great reduction of land destined for forests which has occurred over the last few years has only partially been compensated for by the increase in forest areas thanks to their natural expansion or to reforestation work – according to data from the agency we are at about 10 million hectares a year – and there are still signification differences at regional level in the loss and increase of wooded areas.

    The role of forests is essential throughout the world; just consider that deforestation is the second cause of climate change after the consumption of fossil fuels. The forests are valuable both as carbon sinks and as natural protection against the effects of hydrogeological instability. Ensuring the quality of air and water, and protecting the land, are vital for the planet, in addition to being a source of goods and services.

    Not only, as Eva Mueller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Department, states upon publication of the report, “the trees and forests contribute to achieving various sustainable development objectives in the Agenda 2030, they must be incorporated into the strategies in order to achieve them”.

    In support of these policies, the FAO, as reiterated during the conference “Our Forests, Our Future” held in Brussels last 25 and 26 April, is carrying out a series of activities and programmes aimed at reinforcing the governance of the forests in the various countries in the world so as to increase efforts to stop deforestation and the degradation of forests, as well as obtaining contributions at a national level and sustainable development objectives.