Who takes the blame for the haze?

The city of Pekanbaru in Riau, Indonesia, shrouded in haze yesterday. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong
Mr Mohammad Azaki attempts to put out a fire on a patch of private land across from his house in Parit Indah, Pekanbaru. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong
Greenpeace names S’pore-listed First Resources as one of the firms responsible for the fires; company denies charge
Published: 4:02 AM, June 21, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, June 22, 2013
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RIAU — Half of the hotspots that are leaving Singapore and Malaysia shrouded in haze are in areas that should be protected by Indonesia’s moratorium on forest land, findings by environmental group Greenpeace showed yesterday.

The hotspots were detected between June 11 and 18. This shows how poorly forest protection measures are being enforced, Greenpeace South-east Asia’s Forest Campaigner Yuyun Indradi said yesterday.

But the group also said lack of updated data and transparency creates confusion over which forests are protected under the moratorium, extended for two years last month by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to prevent new clearing of primary forests and peatlands.

Based on best available data, the moratorium overlaps with 5.5 million hectares of concession areas that have been granted to pulp, palm oil or mining companies, Greenpeace said.

Aerial images of hotspots overlaid with a palm oil concession map released by Greenpeace yesterday also showed burning taking place on concession land of the subsidiary of a Singapore-listed firm, First Resources.

Responding to queries, a company spokesperson said it had long relinquished concession rights to the area in question. Its subsidiary PT Surya Dumai Agrindo did not develop palm oil plantations in the area as the land was unsuitable. “The permit expired and the concession area was returned to the Ministry of Forestry in 1999. First Resources does not manage any oil palm plantation nor has any unplanted land bank in this area currently,” said a First Resources spokesperson.

“We also wish to reiterate that we have a zero-burning policy and so far there have not been any fire incidents reported at our plantations,” the spokesperson added.

Not always easy to pinpoint responsibility

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