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Jakarta Post

Govt to crack down on forest-burning firms

  • Hans Nicholas Jong

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, June 18, 2015   /  10:06 am

As part of the fight against firms responsible for causing forest fires, the government plans to issue a regulation that would allow it to revoke land-cultivation permits.

The Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry, the government institution authorized to issue the permits, said on Wednesday that it would enact the measure immediately, as the country'€™s forests had suffered too long from irresponsible cultivation practices.

'€œI want a policy that will let us revoke the permits of companies that burn land,'€ Minister Ferry Mursyidan Baldan said during a meeting at the Environment and Forestry Ministry in Jakarta.

The planned regulation, however, will apply only to the land burned.

'€œFor example, let'€™s say we issued a permit for 20,000 hectares of land, and 2,000 hectares of it got burned. We will revoke the permit for those 2,000 hectares, which will leave the company with 18,000 hectares,'€ Ferry said. '€œThe more land they burn, the more they will suffer.'€

The policy, he said, would come into effect once the ministry had completed its maps of hot spots, haze and burned land.

'€œWe will overlay the three maps. That will be our foundation for implementing the policy,'€ said Ferry.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar backed the proposal.

'€œ[We need to act ] if forest fires happen repeatedly in the same spot, managed by the same company,'€ she said on Wednesday.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, meanwhile, suggested that Ferry back the policy with a ministerial regulation.

'€œYou are threatening to revoke the permits, but if that'€™s the case, they [companies] won'€™t be afraid,'€ she told Ferry during the meeting. '€œIf you don'€™t have a ministerial regulation [to back up the policy], it will be troublesome. Pak Laoly [Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly] can legalize the regulation within two days.'€

Susi said that the policy would be crucial to avoid complaints from neighboring countries, which sufferred from hazes caused by forest fires in Sumatra.

Ferry replied, however, that he needed no ministerial regulation.

'€œI am the one who signed the permit, so I can revise it,'€ he said.

Besides the policy, the government will also ramp up its legal efforts to punish agroforestry firms that cause forest fires.

Siti said that she had ordered the ministry'€™s law enforcement division to improve its work in court following a number of defeats.

'€œWe usually lose over technical matters, with defendants arguing that our evidence, such as land samples, are lacking,'€ she said.

This year, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 18 Satellite had detected 2,387 hot spots as of Monday.

The highest number of hot spots were recorded in Riau, one of the regions most prone to land and forest fires, with 641 hot spots, followed by West Kalimantan with 236, Jambi with 187, Central Kalimantan with 165 and South Sumatra with 135.

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