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  • Firefighters try to extinguish forest fires at Sebangau National Park area in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia, September 14, 2019.

    Firefighters try to extinguish forest fires at Sebangau National Park area in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia, September 14, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 September 2019

Greenpeace said that despite ensuing forest fires in the country, no sanctions had been issued to 10 palm oil and pulp companies with the largest sections of burnt land

Indonesian palm oil and pulp companies involved in forest fires between 2015 and 2018 have gone unpunished, Greenpeace denounced on Tuesday.

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The non-profit organization grounded its accusations on “burn scar” analysis of satellite images that showed that between 2015 and 2018, 3.4 million hectares of land was burnt.

The findings were then compared to concession data relating to pulp and palm oil companies and sanctions that had been issued to date.

“This government is not serious about law enforcement, and this is a key reason why the fires have returned,” said Kiki Taufik, Global Head of Greenpeace Indonesia’s forests campaign, in a statement.

Of the 10 palm oil companies with the largest stretches of burnt land, seven recorded fires this year and only two of them received minor administrative sanctions.

The Indonesia government has failed to revoke any licenses to palm oil and pulp companies due to forest fires.

Of the four pulp companies with the worst fires, only one was fined after being charged for burning nearly 20,000 hectares in 2014.

The remaining pulp companies have been sanctioned for replanting on burnt land but not for burning it in the first place, while one of the concessions was burnt again in 2019.

The fires this year, which particularly affect the Sumatra and Borneo islands and have been intensifying since September, have engulfed hundreds and thousands of hectares and caused a polluting haze that has spread to Malaysia and Singapore.

Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) said that this year a great number of fires had been caused by companies and small farmers and that 80 percent of the burnt land will be replanted rapidly after the fires are doused.

The authorities have arrested more than 250 people and are investigating six companies suspected of starting the forest fires.

This is the worst year of fires since 2015 when around 2.6 million hectares were burnt, resulting in a series of governmental measures to protect and restore forests and peat bogs.

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