Haze Strikes Again

Tuesday, 19 July 2016 , 16:00:00 WIB - Economy

Governor of Sumatera Alex Noerdin (right) assisted by Director of Asia Pulp & Paper (APP)-Sinar Mas Suhendra Wiriadinata (left) checked a car donated by APP-Sinar Mas at Griya Agung Palembang, South Sumatera, Friday (24/6). (ANTARA)

JAKARTA, GRES.NEWS - Some regions in Indonesia are starting to face dry season, and numerous hotspots appear in some locations causing a land fire. Poor peatland management in Indonesia is allegedly due to the main cause of land fires in Indonesia.

Besides the poor management, the government is considered not acting firmly against the perpetrators of the slash and burn. Riko Kurniawandari Wahana from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) expressed that most of the forest fires are caused by corporates and capital owners who want to open up a new land by burning them first.

"The capital owners are often misunderstood as the locals, so the locals often take the blame," Riko said to gres.news, Monday (18/7).

According to the data of the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), forest fires in Riau that have occurred since the beginning of July 2016 is predicted to reach 1,300 hectares (ha). The fire is located in numerous Regencies, which are Rokan Hilir, Pelalawan, Siak, Dumai, Kampar, and Rohil. Riau Provincial Government has even enacted an alert of land and forest fire.

According to him, the issue is not about who burns the forest the most, but more about how the government could fix the existing land management. The government should conduct a total audit on the peatland ownership of individuals or companies to reveal the truth behind the slash and burn incidents.

The history tells that the locals in Riau never opens up a new land by burning them because the lands are peatlands with wet contour and the locals use them for fishing. Since acacia and oil palm plantations start to appear, land fire often occurs because acacia and oil palm can't be grown on wet peatlands. Therefore, burning the land to make them dry is the only way to grow acacia and oil palm plantation.

"Opening up a new land by burning them is an industrial method," he said.

For that reason, he asked the government to refresh the peatlands, so its function in the ecosystem would be recovered. The government has to take an action to stop the danger caused by a land fire that could happen in Indonesia. Although the government has responded well to the issue by extinguishing the occurring land fire, if the fire keeps happening massively every year, the haze disaster that happened last year could repeat.

He feels unfortunate with the government's inconsistency in bringing the land and forest arsonists to justice. In 2015, eight corporates were named as suspects, but all of them got free in the court trial. Besides that, numerous mischievous soldiers and parliament officials own more than 50 hectares of illegal peatland area, that are not supposed to be owned by anyone, and they own the permit for the land, and law enforcers never touch them.

With the permit, the landowners have access to burn the peatlands, and it makes the situation worse. "PT Langgam Inti Hibrido Frans Katihokang was freed, and we heard that the investigation on 13 arsonists, who are responsible for the land and forest fire in 2015, got stopped. Law enforcement never exists here," he said vehemently.

Seeing the issue, Walhi loses its trust on courts in handling environment issues. The government should have a political commitment that's supported by the parliament by establishing a special court to handle environment issues, just like the anti-corruption court that handles corruption issues specifically, because slash and burn are classified as a specific crime.

HAZE PREVENTION - The House's Commission IV member, Hamdhani, from Central Kalimantan electoral district stated that the slash and burn incident in Central Kalimantan has happened, and it poses haze threat to the surrounding area.

Last 2015, haze disaster troubled most of Central Kalimantan citizens, starting from their health, transportation, to economy. Therefore, the government should start planning to prevent haze, so they could minimize the impact of slash and burn activities.

"Citizens and private sectors should also participate in the prevention and control of land and forest fire," Hamdhani said through a message received by gres.news, Monday (18/7).

If the government takes a late action, they would have to do the same thing as last year to stop the haze disaster. This year, the government has to focus on preventing the haze disaster from happening, so the government's State Budget allocations to mitigate disasters won't be pointless.