JAKARTA — September 30, 2015: Indonesia needs three years to address the issue of burning of fields and forests in the country and solve the haze problem that has resulted in bad quality air in neighbouring countries.
President Joko Widodo said the problem of forest fires could not possibly be solved in a short time and the three-year time period was set to see the
progress of the work done to overcome it.
He said this during an interview aired on BBC Indonesia, as quoted by local online news portals here today. The man better known as Jokowi said Indonesia had done its best to address the problem.
The Indonesian president said that among the initiatives being taken was to deploy 3,700 soldiers and 8,000 police personnel along with four water bombers to fight the fires.
The government will also take immediate action by building canals in farmlands so that the land always remains moist and not easily combustible.
In terms of enforcement, Jokowi said the authorities have arrested several individuals and business owners believed to be burning forests and fields for replanting.
Fires in forests and agricultural areas have now raged in several provinces, namely Riau, South Sumatra, Jambi and all parts of Kalimantan.
The massive burning of forests and agricultural land is believed to be carried out as an easy way to open up new agricultural land and Malaysian and Singaporean companies are often ostensibly linked to the activity.
The Association of Plantation Investors of Malaysia in Indonesia (APIMI) however denied the allegations and confirmed that none of the Malaysian
plantation companies operating in Indonesia was involved in the burning of fields and forests.
APIMI’s chief representative Nor Hazlan Abdul Mutalib said that on the contrary, all plantations owned by Malaysians ensured that they complied with the practice of clearing the fields without burning.
He said the practice of burning forests and fields for any purpose is an offence in the country and all members of APIMI always comply with the laws
on agricultural operations.
Instead he pointed out that if there were cases of open burning in plantations owned by Malaysians, it was actually the work of local people in the area.
“This is because there are squatters in the plantation areas owned by foreign companies and the Indonesian government requires that 20 per cent of a plantation area be reserved for these people,” said Hazlan.
The website of the Indonesian Agency of Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics said the haze situation in Palangkaraya, the
capital of West Kalimantan, hit very dangerous levels this morning when the Air Pollutant Index (API) reached 1,000.
In Pontianak, the haze was still at a very unhealthy API level of between 250-300, while in Palembang, the reading this morning reached a very dangerous level of 900. It went down to the 250-300 range in the afternoon. — Bernama