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30 Aug 06
Greenpeace slams Indonesia over forest fires
Channel NewsAsia 29 Aug 06
Green groups press Jakarta to impose sanctions on companies starting forest fires
By Channel NewsAsia's Indonesia Bureau Chief Sujadi Siswo
JAKARTA : Indonesia's environmental groups are pressing Jakarta to impose stiff sanctions against companies which fail to prevent fires on their forested land.
The green groups have accused some government officials of being bribed to turn a blind eye to the worsening haze.
Raging ground and forest fires across Kalimantan and Sumatra have shrouded large parts of Indonesia, disrupting air traffic, reducing visibility on the roads and causing breathing difficulties. Thick haze has also blown to neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.
Indonesian authorities are struggling to put out the fires which they claim are started by small village farmers. But based on satellite images of the 40,000 hotspots each year, green groups like the Indonesian Forum for Environment have pointed an accusing finger at large plantation estates and forest concession holders for starting fires to clear their land to plant new crops.
"Based on our data since 2001, the small farmers only account for a maximum of only 20%. A lot of the hotspots are actually located on the concession areas of the big plantation and the industrial concessioners," said Farah Sofa, deputy director of Indonesian Forum for Environment.
Environmentalists want Jakarta to impose stiff penalties and to stop work at companies whose forested land catches fire.
Seven plantations are being investigated but few are prosecuted because of lack of evidence. "Forestry is one of the most corrupt sectors in Indonesia because of all the illegal activities that's worth RP30 trillion every year. It's a huge amount of money and we know that a lot of forestry business entities are owned by military or parties that are connected to the big powers in Jakarta," said Sofa.
Indonesian environmental groups have named some 100 companies in Kalimantan and Sumatera, whose forested land parcels have recently caught fire. The aim is to hopefully push authorities to hold these companies responsible for the haze. - CNA /ls
Yahoo News 30 Aug 06
Greenpeace slams Indonesia over forest fires
JAKARTA (AFP) - Environmental group Greenpeace has called on Indonesia to halt land clearing fires, warning that thick haze from the blazes threatened the health of millions of people and contributed to climate change.
"Greenpeace is calling on the Indonesian government to stop all land clearing operations in fragile forest environments in order to break this annual cycle, which is destroying large tracts of forests in Sumatra," the organisation said in a press release.
Haze would continue to smother Southeast Asia annually if Indonesia failed to stop the burning of peat forests -- a type of forest which is widespread in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo -- the group said.
"Once these peat swamps are exposed due to logging, clearing for canals and concessions, they dry out like a wet sponge exposed to sunlight and become extremely flammable," said Greenpeace campaigner Hapsoro in the statement.
"Unless the conversion of these types of forests is stopped we will continue to experience large scale forest fires and continued environmental destruction on an annual basis," he added.
Indonesia's neighbours have urged it to curb the annual haze crisis by cracking down on forest fires, warning that it is hurting business and putting off tourists.
Greenpeace blamed industrial forest concessions after carrying out an investigation in Sumatra. "Forest clearing for acacia pulpwood and oil palm plantations are the leading causes of the fires and also a factor in creating environmental conditions that perpetuate the problem."
It alleged that conversion of peat land and forest fires was releasing massive quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere further adding to the problem of climate change.
Greenpeace also urged the government to declare the fires a national emergency and to prosecute plantation companies found responsible for the slash and burn land clearing.
Earlier Wednesday, thick haze stopped air traffic in and out of an airport in West Kalimantan province, a local meteorological agency said.
Police in Jakarta meanwhile said they were investigating companies suspected of starting fires. Although the government has outlawed clearing land by fire, enforcement has been weak.
The police statement came after the Jakarta-based environment group Walhi demanded the investigation of more than 100 palm oil and industrial forest companies for allegedly starting fires.
Related articles on Singapore: Haze
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