Photos of 2015’s burned peat in pulp giant concessions reinforce President’s warning

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - President Joko Widodo has delivered a strong reminder about the economic losses caused by 2015’s extensive forest and land fires, which amounted to more than USD 16 billion, and said that these fires must be avoided at all costs.

“The figure for the losses incurred is huge,” the President lamented at a briefing held in coordination with 2017 forest and land fire control authorities at the State Palace (Jan 23), as quoted on the Presidential Office portal.

The President also detailed further adverse knock-on effects suffered by the public as a result of the devastation wrought by the widespread forest and land fires of two years ago, such as the suspension of educational, social and economic activities.

South Sumatra was one of the provinces most significantly affected by 2015’s catastrophic peat fires, which led the President to designate two regencies in this province as two of four peat restoration priority regencies in the country, in early January last year.

Many of the areas afflicted by 2015’s peat fires which ravaged the province of South Sumatra are located in a number of pulpwood concessions belonging to the giant corporation Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

The photos of 2015’s burned peatlands below - which were provided by Greenomics Indonesia during a presentation at the Environment and Forestry Ministry (Jan 19) - demonstrate the severity of the peat fires which swept through APP concessions in Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency, thereby bringing about substantial economic losses to the public, as touched upon by the President.

The photos above were taken when the APP concessions had started to be lashed by heavy rains.

This makes the President's warning about how difficult it was to extinguish 2015's peat fires all the more relevant, given the facts on the ground show that without rain it is clearly impossible to put out these devastating peat fires.

No room for compromise

As previously reported by foresthints.news (Jan 17), eight APP concessions spread around the provinces of South Sumatra and Riau have already been ordered by the Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya to remove all their newly-replanted acacia, especially that planted in 2015’s burned peatlands.

In fact, two of these eight APP concessions had their permits suspended by the minister following the extremely serious fire damage caused to peatlands in their concessions in 2015.

However, after the permit suspension of these two companies was lifted, they once again committed serious peat violations, most notably by replanting acacia in 2015’s burned peatlands. This led the minister to instruct the two companies to get rid of their newly-replanted acacia.

As cited from the minister’s website, at the briefing the President emphasized that when it comes to law enforcement, there is absolutely no room for compromise on issues related to forest and land fires.