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Jakarta Post

Company blames haze crisis on illegal activities

  • Ayomi Amindoni

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, October 1, 2015   /  08:53 pm
Company blames haze crisis on illegal activities Smoky day: A train rolls past as haze from wildfires blankets the city in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Wednesday. Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered an acceleration of efforts to extinguish forest fires whose thick smoky haze has affected parts of western Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. (AP/Binsar Bakkara) (AP/Binsar Bakkara)

Smoky day: A train rolls past as haze from wildfires blankets the city in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Wednesday. Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered an acceleration of efforts to extinguish forest fires whose thick smoky haze has affected parts of western Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. (AP/Binsar Bakkara)

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) rejected accusations saying that the pulp and paper company was behind the haze crisis currently affecting areas in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

APP managing director of sustainability Aida Greenbury said forest fires within concession areas did not mean that it was the company that had started the fire.

"It's illogical that we would burn the forests since we need timber for our pulp and paper industry," said Aida in a press conference on Monday.

She further explained that as a subsidiary of Sinar Mas Group, APP had not been involved in any deforestation since 2013. "That means we no longer open conserved forests for industrial timber plantations," she explained.

Aida admitted there were cases in which fires had started from within APP supplier's concession areas, primarily due to illegal slash and burn practices.

She said the majority of the fires were perpetrated by individuals who wanted to clear land cheaply and quickly for subsistence farming, agriculture and other purposes.

To prevent such activities, Aida said the supplier'€™s forest security team conducted daily patrols and joint operations together with local law enforcement institutions.

"During the joint patrols we found several illegal activities in Jambi and Riau in the past two months. We already reported it to the police," she said.

On the same occasion, Sinar Mas managing director Gandi Sulistiyanto said Sinar Mas and its business unit supported the government's action against forest fire offenders.

"We will cut our contract with suppliers found guilty of burning forests," he claimed.

Earlier, police investigators had named at least seven companies and 133 individuals suspected of using fires to clear land in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

They have released the acronyms of the seven companies at which the suspects worked. They are: PT BMH, PT RPP and PT RPS in South Sumatra; PT LIH in Riau; and PT GAP, PT MBA and PT ASP in Central Kalimantan.

Based on National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) data, as of 5 a.m. local time on Thursday, 492 hot spots were detected in Central Kalimantan, followed by East Kalimantan ( 211 ) and South Sumatra( 168 ). In total, Kalimantan had 791 hot spots while 192 hot spots were found in Sumatra, kompas.com reported.

Separately, environmental group Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) is calling on all of the people affected by the haze to carry out a class action lawsuit against the government.

West Kalimantan-chapter Walhi director, Anton Widjaya, said in Jakarta on Thursday it was important for them to carry out a class action suit because the government had tended to neglect the rights of people who became the victims of smoke pollution from forest fires allegedly perpetrated by companies.

'€œWalhi will act as a facilitator for people who want to file lawsuits against state authorities. In West Kalimantan, we have opened seven posts to accommodate people'€™s aspirations,'€ he said as quoted by Antara news agency.

In West Kalimantan, the haze situation has affected schools and economic activities, causing health problems. The Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU) in the province touched the level of 1,300, or four times higher than the dangerous level of 300-500. (ebf)

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