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  • Archive for March, 2014

    ‘Deliberate’ Sumatra fires started to clear areas for palm oil

    2014 - 03.11

    Indonesia’s Forestry Minister has said that last year’s devastating forest fires in Sumatra were almost all started deliberately in order to clear forested areas for planting.

    Zulkifli Zaini blamed the majority of the 2013 fires on palm oil and paper companies and said that weak law enforcement was delaying efforts to prosecute culprits. The Minister also said that the forest fires have already begun for this year. “It felt like it was just yesterday we dealt with it. Now the haze has come back again for this year,” he told The Jakarta Globe.

    Fires began in February in Riau province, part of Sumatra island, which is home to many major pulp, paper and palm oil suppliers.

    Despite laws being in place to prevent the clearing of forests by fire, and firms promising zero burning policies, the forest fires keep returning year after year.

    Many small local farmers are suspected of taking payments from major companies to light fires on company plantations in order to clear them for planting. Real time data provided by Nasa and other agencies ensures that it is possible to see in which location the fires have been lit, and also to see which companies stand to benefit from the sections of forest that have been cleared as a result of the fires.

    Research analysts Ariana Alisjahbana, James Anderson, Susan Minnemeyer, Fred Stolle and Nigel Sizer at the World Resources Institute told the publication: “According to data from Global Forest Watch, a new online system that tracks tree cover change, fires, and other information in near-real time — roughly half of these fires are burning on land managed by oil palm, timber, and logging companies. This is despite the fact that using fire to clear land is illegal in Indonesia.”

    Over 50 per cent of the major fire alerts in Sumatra that took place last month came from the combined paper plantations – which accounted for 38 per cent – and palm oil plantations, which accounted for 13 per cent.

    According to Riau Haze Emergency Response Task Force commander Brig. Gen. Prihadi Agus Irianto, over 11,138 hectares of forest cover have been affected by fires in Riau so far in 2014.

    Ethical companies such as Greenwood Management are committed to lowering deforestation across the globe, and clamping down on practices such as the starting of deliberate forest fires, is a key step to preserving these swaths of forest and the wildlife that call them home.