Indonesia on fire, paper and palm oil industry blamed

The National Agency for Disaster Management of Indonesia (BNPB) says that the number of fires in Indonesia have increased in June, especially in Riau province, Sumatra. Other areas that experienced an increasing number of fires were Jambi and West Kalimantan. The peatland fires in Riau which started last week have affected not only Riau but also neighboring countries Singapore and Malaysia. Malaysia also decided to temporarily close 200 schools and banned open burning in some areas due to the haze. The Pollutant Standards Index, Singapore’s main measurement for air pollution, is above the “hazardous” classification that can aggravate respiratory ailments.

 

According to the World Resources Institute, based on NASA satellite data, most of the fires are located in the concessions of two industrial conglomerates with headquarters in Singapore: Sinar Mas and Raja Garuda Mas, which respectively control the two paper giants in Indonesia, Asia Pulp & Paper and APRIL, and the palm oil producers Golden Agri Resources and Raja Garuda Mas.

Greenpeace noted that half of the hotspots detected should have been protected by Indonesia`s forest conversion moratorium. “The fact that fires continue to affect the regions shows how weak is the forest protection enforcement schemes in Indonesia,” said Yuyun Indradi, of Greenpeace Indonesia.

Indradi also said that companies should also be responsible for ensuring their supply chain, commit to zero deforestation and stop unlawful practices such as clearing land by burning forests and damaging the country`s air. According to Greenpeace`s analysis of the current revision of the moratorium, map also found that there are more than 10 million hectares of primary forest and about 32 million hectares of secondary forests in Indonesia are not protected by law. In each revision, the number of forests legally protected under the moratorium continues to decrease – more than six million hectares, has been reduced since 2011.

“President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently told Greenpeace the government will work harder to strengthen environmental protection and prevent reduction of the protected forest, This is a weakening signal and should be strengthened,” said Indradi. More than 600,000 hectares of peat lands, primary forests and secondary forests-rich carbon content which if destroyed will contribute greatly to Indonesia`s greenhouse gas emissions, have been removed from the latest moratorium map.

The lack of current data and transparency create confusion about where the actual protected forest moratorium. Based on best available data, forest moratorium is overlapping with 5.5 million hectares of forest whose licenses have been given to serve as timber and oil palm plantations, selective logging or mining.

The Government should review the concessions that have been granted, increase transparency in terms of licensing, create a low carbon land database as a credible alternative to the high-carbon land destruction and make a clear plan of land use.

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