Indonesia: Drone video implicates Indonesian palm oil company in haze fires

Channel NewsAsia 20 Sep 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesian environmental coalition Eyes on the Forest (EoF) on Tuesday (Sep 20) released a drone video further implicating the role of palm oil plantation company PT Andika Permata Sawit Lestari (APSL) in this year’s forest fires that caused the haze.

The drone video, taken on Sep 1 in Rokan Hulu, Riau province, shows great swathes of burnt land in and around an illegal palm oil plantation belonging to APSL.

The video’s release comes weeks after Indonesian environmental officials were detained for several hours by a mob trying to stop them from investigating suspected fires in an APSL concession.

The mob - believed to have been hired by the company - threatened to kill the investigators and dump their bodies in a river. The officials were only released about 12 hours later after police intervened and after they had agreed to delete photographic evidence.

Indonesia's Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar later condemned the incident, adding that her ministry's main priority now is an investigation into APSL as its “palm oil plantation in the area is illegal”.

Under fierce pressure from its neighbours, Indonesia has pledged to take more action and has arrested more than 460 people this year over forest fires.

The haze is a yearly problem caused by fires set in forests and on peatland in Indonesia to quickly and cheaply clear land for palm oil and pulpwood plantations.

Smoke from fires in Riau often drifts to nearby Singapore and Malaysia. Air pollution in Singapore rose to "unhealthy" levels late last month after a spike in fires in the area.

EoF is a coalition of three environmental organisations in Riau - WWF Indonesia's Tesso Nilo Programme, Jikalahari (Forest Rescue Network Riau) and Walhi Riau (Friends of the Earth Indonesia). It was launched in December 2004 to investigate the state of Riau's forests and those who influence it.

- CNA/ec

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