Jokowi calls for peatland moratorium after 10 killed by haze
The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo said in a cabinet meeting on Friday that there would be no more licensing for peatland concessions because he wanted to overcome the haze dilemma that has caused 10 deaths.
'I ask the environment and forestry minister not to give any more licenses for peatland areas,' Jokowi asserted while leading the cabinet meeting.
The number of victims from the haze blanketing Sumatra and Kalimantan continues to rise, as the government is rolling out a plan to evacuate people in the worst-affected areas.
'In this cabinet meeting we are talking about further steps for evaluating the handling of forest fires and how to evacuate the affected people in the smog-blanketed areas,' Jokowi said.
The president said that a one-map policy must be implemented to overcome the disaster as soon as possible, and at the same time reviewing concessions in all peatland areas.
'Those ministers who are in charge of this matter must go down to the field and handle the problems directly,' he asserted.
The government is mulling drastic measures because of the seriousness of the situation in some areas.
Greenpeace however criticized the policy, urging the government to take more concrete action beyond the moratorium of peatland.
'The government should fully protect peatland, including restoring degraded peatland,' Bustar Maitar, the global head for the Indonesia Forest Campaign in Greenpeace International, told thejakartapost.com.
Similar to Greenpeace, the managing director at Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) Aida Greenbury said that the moratorium alone would not be a solution.
According to Aida, the solution is a landscape approach, which use science to determine hydrology management and to ensure green growth while mitigating environmental risks and engaging and embracing the community in the supply chain, such as in agroforestry programs.
'We have made progress with the peat landscape approach, and would be grateful if it were used as a pilot,' Aida said.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry has said that up to 90 percent of this year's forest fires were caused by humans. The hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which covered 1,697 hectares, were owned by 413 companies, 227 of which were held with forest concession permits and 186 of which were owned by plantation companies.
On Tuesday, the ministry declared Central Kalimantan as the region with the highest level of Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU), at 1,950 -- far above the hazardous threshold, which is between 300 and 500.
Four units of Air Tractors and BE-200 from Australia and Russia arrived in South Sumatra on Thursday to help tackle the fires.
Previously, the government refused to receive foreign aid on the matter, but later decided to welcome it, including assistance from Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, China and Australia.
Yet, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Willem Rampangilei said on Thursday that foreign aid did not provide a significant impact due to the short duration of the assistance.
He added that in addition to the foreign aid, the government had also rented 19 helicopters and three Air Tractors. It was currently looking to rent other aircraft, but it was difficult due to the effect of El Nino in many countries.
'The El Nino is occurring everywhere so many countries rented [the aircraft] first,' said Willem.(++++)
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