Forest fires devastating for Papua, says Greenpeace
The environmental group Greenpeace has criticised Indonesian authorities over the inadequate response to forest and peatland fires raging out of control across the republic including Papua.
Greenpeace says the Indonesian government has yet to take serious steps to stop the devastating forest and peatland fires in Papua.
Fires from land clearance on drained peatlands have caused rampant fires across the republic including Papua, catapulting Indonesia to being one of the world's largest emitter's of greenhouse gasses.
Greenpeace's Indonesia forest campaigner Yuyun Indradi spoke to Johnny Blades about the fires which have belched carbon haze across many parts of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
YUYUN INDRADI: It is very out of control what is happening in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua. This is the worst after the 1997 peat and forest fires. So this has already emitted more than the daily emissions in the US, so it is outrageous.
JOHNNY BLADES: You said it's the worst since '97 - that of course is the last big El Nino pattern. Is the problem because of El Nino or because of the rampant clearance of forests or both?
YI: I think El Nino is already predicted. So I think if Indonesia has good forest governance then they are going to prepare to face the El Nino and also the fires that happen every year. For me there's no excuse that the government is not ready with this fire disaster.
JB: Who is causing the forest clearance? Is it people clearing land for oil palm plantations mainly?
YI: It is a mix actually. The palm oil company can use the community or the people to clear the land by fire , and then they ask the people to join with the second company that is adjacent to the forest fire. So mostly the fire happens outside the concession and then later on the concession is proposed to expand their concession to the burnt land.
JB: And in Papua, how bad are the fires? Are they raging out of control like they were a couple of months ago?
YI: At the moment I think with the quite intense rains that are coming, the fires are not less than the previous month. But this is also a record for Papua. Papua was never (before) in the top five or ten in terms of number of fire hotspots. But this year, Papua is in the top three. So this is quite surprising and most of the fire hotspots are concentrated on the southern part of Papua.
JB: Around Merauke (including the big Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate)?
JB: And that's where a lot of oil palm interests are sprouting up, right?
YI: Yes, definitely, yes.
JB: What's the impact like for the people who live in these areas?
YI: The impact is very bad to the people. And particularly if we're talking about Papua, it's very rare that they use fire to clear the land, even in the traditional wisdom because most of them or some of them is still a fruit picker. It's quite devastating for their livelihood because most of them depend on the peat land and also on the forest land. It seems like a systematic force to force them to be palm oil farmers. They have very small knowledge about palm oil plantations.
JB: What's the government doing to stop the forest clearance, the fires in Papua? Is it doing anything?
YI: Up to know the effort to put out the fire is mostly concentrated in Kalimantan and Sumatra and again Papua has been ignored and neglected. There is less effort in terms of putting out the fires, in terms of mitigating against the fires.
JB: And the haze, it's still very big isn't it?
YI: Yes it is and I think this is going to take over the '97 haze, I think, this 2015.
JB: So what do you want the government to do? What needs to happen? Do you need to get more teams on the ground to stop the fire? Do the police or the military need to get involved or are they part of the problem?
YI: Basically yes because most of the high-ranked officers within the military or within the government, they also have their concessions or at least part of the concession structures or the company structures and some of them just see it as commissioners of the company. Those military or government officers are sometimes members of parliament also and are a part of it. That is why the government is trying to cover up the list of companies who are implicated in the forest fire disasters and they don't want to announce who are the companies. What we want is if you want to start good governance in the forests you can start being transparent and then the second thing, the government needs to increase more on the forest protections. Strong regulations in the forest protections and also increase more on the people on the ground with the knowledge, with the skills on how to put out the fires or how to prevent the fires.