Best of our wild blogs: 24 Oct 15

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Love our MacRitchie Forest

RIP Keith Hillier - Mentor to nature volunteers
wild shores of singapore

Butterfly of the Month - October 2015
Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Punggol Forest (23 Oct 2015)
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Singapore-Batam ferry services suspended for 90 minutes

KELLY NG Today Online 23 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — A sudden downturn in the haze this afternoon (Oct 23) caused ferry services between Singapore and Batam to be temporarily suspended, and the authorities warned that air quality tomorrow is likely to fall in the mid to high sections of the unhealthy range.

The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading surged past the 200 mark from 4pm today. It prompted the Batam port master to suspend ferries to Batam Centre — one of the main ports on the Indonesian island — although the suspension was lifted about 90 minutes later, at 5.15pm.

It was the second time this year the haze had caused ferry services to stop. The first was in September.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that hazy conditions and reduced visibility are expected to persist tomorrow, with the 24-hour PSI likely to fall in the mid to high sections of the unhealthy range (101-200).

If wind conditions are unfavourable, the reading may enter the low end of the very unhealthy range (201-300).

Despite the thickening haze, only one hotspot was detected in Sumatra as of 5pm today, down from 37 on Thursday, 166 on Wednesday and 356 on Tuesday. The NEA attributed the low hotspot count to a “partial satellite pass” — a situation where a satellite is still passing over the area being monitored — and cloud cover over parts of Sumatra.

The agency added that central and southern Sumatra is still shrouded by “moderate to dense smoke haze” while “widespread dense haze” is observed over Kalimantan. “Some of the haze continues to spread to the surrounding sea areas southeast of Singapore,” the NEA said.

The Singapore Cruise Centre said it will continue to monitor the situation closely and advise all passengers of any further changes to ferry schedules. Passengers can also contact their ferry operators and check the centre’s website to keep up to date on the latest ferry schedule.

Ferry services between Batam and Singapore briefly suspended due to haze
Ferry services were suspended for about an hour on Friday afternoon (Oct 23) due to hazy conditions. The suspension was lifted at 5.15pm.
Channel NewsAsia 23 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Ferry services were briefly suspended between Batam and Singapore on Friday (Oct 23) due to haze.

The Batam port master put a temporary halt to ferry services from Batam Centre to Singapore from 3.40pm, while services from HarbourFront to Batam Centre were suspended from 4.50pm. Other ferry terminals in Batam and Bintan were still operating, the Singapore Cruise Centre (SCC) said in an advisory.

The 3-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) at 3pm was 199 and hit 205 at 4pm. When services resumed at 5.15pm the 3-hour PSI reading had inched up to 207.

The SCC said it would continue to monitor the situation closely and advise passengers of further changes to ferry schedules. It also said that passengers can also contact their ferry operators directly.

- CNA/ww

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Indonesia: President calls for peatland moratorium after 10 killed by haze

Dandy Koswaraputra, 23 Oct 15;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said in a cabinet meeting on Friday that there would be no more licensing for peatland concessions because he wanted to overcome the haze dilemma that has caused 10 deaths.

“I ask the environment and forestry minister not to give any more licenses for peatland areas,” Jokowi asserted while leading the cabinet meeting.

The number of victims from the haze blanketing Sumatra and Kalimantan continues to rise, as the government is rolling out a plan to evacuate people in the worst-affected areas.

“In this cabinet meeting we are talking about further steps for evaluating the handling of forest fires and how to evacuate the affected people in the smog-blanketed areas,” Jokowi said.

The president said that a one-map policy must be implemented to overcome the disaster as soon as possible, and at the same time reviewing concessions in all peatland areas.

“Those ministers who are in charge of this matter must go down to the field and handle the problems directly,” he asserted.

The government is mulling drastic measures because of the seriousness of the situation in some areas.

Greenpeace however criticized the policy, urging the government to take more concrete action beyond the moratorium of peatland.

“The government should fully protect peatland, including restoring degraded peatland,” Bustar Maitar, the global head for the Indonesia Forest Campaign in Greenpeace International, told

Similar to Greenpeace, the managing director at Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) Aida Greenbury said that the moratorium alone would not be a solution.

According to Aida, the solution is a landscape approach, which use science to determine hydrology management and to ensure green growth while mitigating environmental risks and engaging and embracing the community in the supply chain, such as in agroforestry programs.

“We have made progress with the peat landscape approach, and would be grateful if it were used as a pilot,” Aida said.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has said that up to 90 percent of this year’s forest fires were caused by humans. The hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which covered 1,697 hectares, were owned by 413 companies, 227 of which were held with forest concession permits and 186 of which were owned by plantation companies.

On Tuesday, the ministry declared Central Kalimantan as the region with the highest level of Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU), at 1,950 -- far above the hazardous threshold, which is between 300 and 500.

Four units of Air Tractors and BE-200 from Australia and Russia arrived in South Sumatra on Thursday to help tackle the fires.

Previously, the government refused to receive foreign aid on the matter, but later decided to welcome it, including assistance from Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, China and Australia.

Yet, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Willem Rampangilei said on Thursday that foreign aid did not provide a significant impact due to the short duration of the assistance.

He added that in addition to the foreign aid, the government had also rented 19 helicopters and three Air Tractors. It was currently looking to rent other aircraft, but it was difficult due to the effect of El Nino in many countries.

“The El Nino is occurring everywhere so many countries rented [the aircraft] first,” said Willem.(++++)

RI still vulnerable as haze crisis, fires remain unbeaten
Apriadi Gunawan, Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Syamsul Huda M. Suhari, The Jakarta Post 23 Oct 15;

With land and forest fires spreading to almost all of the country’s major islands, more residents are struggling to not only survive amid deteriorating air quality but also anticipate further impacts of the disaster on the local environment.

In Jambi, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reported that the concentration of particulate matter (PM10) in the city stood at 738.41 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³) on Thursday morning, confirming the air quality in the city has been at alarming levels in recent weeks.

“I’m planning to take my four children to Padang [West Sumatra] and let them stay at their grandmother’s house. I am afraid that the thick smoke here will affect their health,” Ningsih, a local resident, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Authorities consider air quality “good” if its PM10 concentration stands below 50 µg/m³, “moderate” when the level stands between 50 and 150 µg/m³, “unhealthy” between 150 and 250 µg/m³, “very unhealthy” between 250 and 3500 µg/m³ and “hazardous” when it surpasses 350 µg/m³.

In the neighboring West Sumatra province, haze with a different level of intensity also blanketed many areas on Thursday.

In the provincial capital of Padang, visibility dropped to 500 meters.

Padang BMKG station spokesperson Budi Iman Samiaji said the PM10 concentration in several regions in the eastern part of the province, including Dharmasraya and Sawahlunto, had been recorded at around 1,000 µg/m³, forcing local authorities to temporarily shut down schools since Wednesday.

Meanwhile in North Sumatra, Kualanamu International Airport spokesperson Wisnu Budi Setianto said that thick smoke had paralyzed almost all airports within the province and neighboring Aceh province on Thursday.

“Visibility in many North Sumatran airports stood at below 400 meters. This is the worst situation we have ever experienced,” Wisnu told the Post on Thursday.

Apart from Jambi, West Sumatra and North Sumatra, Riau, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan are among the provinces hardest hit by the air pollution originating from fires in peatland and plantations.

In Riau, for example, visibility in Rengat and Pelawan was recorded at 50 meters and 80 meters, respectively, on Thursday according to Pekanbaru BMKG station spokesperson Slamet Riyadi.

The ongoing disaster has also been exacerbated by this year’s long dry season, triggered by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Last week, Health Minister Nila Djuwita Anfasa Moeloek reported that the haze had caused 425,377 people from six worst-affected provinces to suffer from acute respiratory infections.

The haze crisis has also recently spread to eastern parts of Indonesia.

In Palu, Central Sulawesi, haze that enveloped the city on Thursday disrupted flights scheduled to depart from or arrive at Mutiara SIS Aljufri Airport, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

“I prefer to go home rather than just sitting at the airport’s café without clarity,” said passenger Astrid Sandagang.

Meanwhile in Papua, smoke produced by land and forest fires in the southern part of the province also continued blanketing Timika, the capital of Mimika regency.

“I hoped to see a bright day and inhale clean air when waking up this morning. It turned out that the sky was still dark, covered by smoke,” local resident Hermanto told the Post.

BMKG Region V Jayapura on Thursday detected 744 hot spots in Papua, with most spotted in Merauke and Mappi regencies.

Meanwhile in Gorontalo, head of the local Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Syamsuddin Hadju said a recent fire had burned at least 26.5 hectare of a 112.5 ha conservation forest in Tangale Nature Reserve, Tibawa district, Gorontalo regency.

Rizal Harahap in Pekanbaru, Ruslan Sangadji in Palu and Nethy Dharma Somba in Jayapura also contributed to this article

Indonesian Navy to use warships to evacuate smog victims
Antara 23 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian Navy has prepared two Landing Platform Dock (LPD) type vessels, a floating hospital KRI dr Suharso-990 and KRI Banda Aceh-593, to evacuate smog victims in Sumatera and Kalimantan (Borneo).

"We will make available the ships to serve as temporary shelter, especially for infants and children, till the air condition becomes better," Head of Indonesian Navy PR Department, First Admiral M. Zainudin stated here, on Friday.

People will be evacuated via ships if air pollution standard index (ISPU) in the affected areas reaches worrying levels due to smog, he added.

He explained that the decision to mobilize LPD type warships was based on the government policy issued by Minister for Coordinator of Politics, Law and Security, Gen. (ret.) Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

The policy said in order to handle the smog disaster, the government will focus on evacuating residents, especially infants and children.

"It is possible that the infants and children are housed in the vessels for a few days to prevent them from falling victims to the thick smog," he noted.

While KRI Banda Aceh-593 from the Military Seaborne Command (Kolinlamil) has been stationed in Palembang, South Sumatera, KRI dr Suharso-990 from Eastern Fleet Support Command (Satban Koarmatim) has been stationed in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan.

"The main focus in this operation is evacuating the children and infants from areas affected by smog. Technical aspects will be coordinated with the Ministry of Social affairs and Ministry of Health," he explained.

Besides mobilizing warships, Indonesian Navy has also deployed the Marine Corps personnel to extinguishing the ongoing fire at certain hotspots.

The Marines continue to be at the locations that suffered in the ongoing forest and land fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

They are working together with the Indonesian Army, Air force, Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), Indonesias National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), and other community outfits(*)

President issues instructions on handling forest fires
Antara 23 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has issued several instructions on efforts to tackle land and forest fires during a limited cabinet meeting here on Friday, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

"The president stated that the haze disaster arising due to forest and land fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan is still at a dangerous level," Head of BNPBs Information Center and Public Relations Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated here on Friday.

The presidents instructions included an order to the environment and forestry minister to stop issuing licenses for the exploitation of peatland areas and start conducting land revitalization. The land areas for which permits have been granted should soon be reviewed.

"Besides this, the president also ordered to maintain peatland areas, which have not yet been cultivated. The ecosystem in peatland areas should be restored and put in order again," he remarked.

With regard to short-term handling measures, Sutopo said the president had urged the ministers to conduct onfield monitoring.

"The plan to conduct evacuation should be carried out soon. The haze victims should not necessarily be evacuated to areas outside the city or to other regions. They could be moved to offices of the district heads or mayors or offices of the regional governments to provide assistance to infants and weak victims," he explained.

Jokowi also urged to prepare rooms equipped with air-purifying devices to prevent smoke from entering the houses and to provide health services to the people.

It is difficult to evacuate victims to areas outside the city or other regions as their livelihood would be affected. The president has ordered the health minister to mobilize health facilities by involving the private sector and people.

The education minister was also instructed to pacify school children in the face of the impending state examination as they had been allowed to stay home for some time. The teachers, parents, and students need to be pacified to allay any tensions or anxieties as the date of the examination was nearing.

"The president has supported the deployment of people to help overcome the haze and has urged the National Defense Forces, the National Police, ministries, and other state agencies to jointly overcome forest and land fires," he affirmed.

The BNPB has recorded a total of 2,742 hotspots of forest, peatland, and plantation fires across Indonesia on Thursday.

Of the total hotspots, Papua had 744, South Sumatra 703, Central Kalimantan 462, West Kalimantan 290, and East Kalimantan 153, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the BNPB, remarked here on Thursday.

"Thick haze is still shrouding Sumatra, Kalimantan, and parts of Papua," he noted.

The haze has also reduced visibility in the affected regions.

"This morning, the visibility was 1.2 thousand meters in Padang, 50 meters in Pekanbaru, 700 meters in Jambi, one thousand meters in Palembang, 400 meters in Pontianak, 300 meters in Ketapang, and 100 meters in Palangkaraya," he stated.

The pollutant standard index in Riau, Jambi, West Kalimantan, and Central Kalimantan has reached a hazardous level. In Palembang, South Sumatra, the index reached a very unhealthy level, while in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, it was at an unhealthy level.

The fact that residents of the haze-affected regions have been exposed to hazardous smoke is a matter of grave concern.

The BNPB has been working hard to put out the fires through land and aerial operations by conducting water bombing and inducing artificial rains.(*)

President holds meeting to discuss haze problem
Antara 23 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) held a limited cabinet meeting with relevant ministers on Friday to discuss the haze problem plaguing the country and its impacts.

"During the limited meeting, chaired by the president, the cases of land and forest fires and their impacts were discussed," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung stated here on Friday.

He said President Jokowi had decided to intensify efforts to control land and forest fires under the coordination of the chief minister for political, legal and security affairs.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Panjaitans earlier plan to join President Jokowi during his state visit to the United States was cancelled as he was tasked with the responsibility of handling the forest and land fire extinguishing operations in the field.

"The coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs should fly tomorrow along with the education minister, health minister, social affairs minister, and other officials to Kalimantan," Pramono noted.

According to the cabinet secretary, the political, legal and security affairs minister is coordinating with 21 agencies to reduce the impact of fires. They comprise members from the coordinating ministerial level down to district head and mayoral levels. The ranks also covers members from the ministerial level, the Defense Forces (TNI), and National Police.

In conducting his tasks, the chief political, legal and security minister is directly answerable to the president and is expected to simplify the process.

The president also urged the coordinating minister for peoples empowerment and culture to formulate steps relating to education, health, social, and other areas.

In the meantime, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has recorded a total of 2,742 hotspots of forest, peatland, and plantation fires across Indonesia on Thursday.

Of the total hotspots, Papua had 744, South Sumatra 703, Central Kalimantan 462, West Kalimantan 290, and East Kalimantan 153, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the BNPB, said here on Thursday.

"Thick haze is still shrouding Sumatra, Kalimantan, and parts of Papua," he noted.

The haze has also reduced visibility in the affected regions.

"This morning, the visibility was 1.2 thousand meters in Padang, 50 meters in Pekanbaru, 700 meters in Jambi, one thousand meters in Palembang, 400 meters in Pontianak, 300 meters in Ketapang, and 100 meters in Palangkaraya," he added.

The pollutant standard index in Riau, Jambi, West Kalimantan, and Central Kalimantan has reached a hazardous level. In Palembang, South Sumatra, the index reached a very unhealthy level, while in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, it was at an unhealthy level.

The fact that inhabitants of the haze-hit regions have been exposed to dangerous smoke is a matter of grave concern.

The BNPB has been working hard to put out the fires through land and aerial operations by conducting water bombing and inducing artificial rains.(*)

Jokowi holds closed meeting on smog countermeasures 23 Oct 15;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is set to hold a closed meeting on smog countermeasures at his office at 10 a.m. on Friday amid the continuing disaster of the forest and land fires in several parts of the country.

On Thursday, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the government had not yet named the smog as a national disaster due to legal issues.

“We don’t want to discuss national disaster status, since that involves legal issues. But we can assure an all out handling and mobilization of all resources as instructed by President [Joko] Jokowi [Widodo],” said Luhut.

He added that local government heads had been given the authority to decide when their residents should be evacuated.

Separately, several community institutions such as the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) refused to name the haze a disaster, since it was caused by humans, not nature.

Previously, the Environment and Forestry Ministry stated that up to 90 percent of this year’s forest fires were caused by humans. The total hot spot areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which reached 1,697 hectares, were owned by 413 companies, in which 227 of them were held with forest concession permits and 186 of were are owned by plantation companies.

On Tuesday, the ministry declared Central Kalimantan as the region with the highest level of Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU), at 1,950 -- far above the hazardous threshold, which is between 300 and 500.

Four units of Air Tractors and BE-200 from Australia and Russia arrived in South Sumatra on Thursday to help tackle the fires.

“The four aircraft have landed and departed through the Depati Amir airport [in Bangka] and are ready to supply water from the waters of Bangka Belitung to help with the fire extinguishing efforts,” said Bangka Belitung Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) spokesperson, Teguh Pratama, as quoted by Antara news agency.

Previously, the government refused to receive foreign aid on the matter, but later decided to welcome it, including assistance from Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, China and Australia.

Yet, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Willem Rampangilei said on Thursday that foreign aid did not provide a significant impact due to the short duration of the assistance.

“There are contributions, but if compared to what we have already done, they are not very significant,” said Willem as quoted by

He added that in addition to the foreign aid, the government had also rented 19 helicopters and three Air Tractors. It was currently looking to renting other aircraft, but it was difficult due to the effect of El Nino in many countries.

“The El Nino is occurring everywhere so many countries rented [the aircraft] first,” said Willem. (kes)(++++)

Indonesia to decide whether to declare national emergency over forest fires, haze
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said the government would conduct a review before making a decision.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 23 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: Indonesia will decide soon whether it is necessary to declare the current forest fires and haze crisis a national emergency.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said the government would conduct a review before making a decision.

Mr Luhut was speaking to reporters on Friday (Oct 23) after he and other ministers met President Joko Widodo to discuss the haze issue before the president’s departure for the United States on Saturday.

Mr Luhut has pulled out of the US trip to oversee the crisis in Indonesia. He is expected to travel to Kalimantan on Saturday to assess the situation on the ground.

"But I wish to tell you that the actions that have been taken are at the level of a national emergency because we know that the people cannot wait anymore. We have already prepared our warships and other state-owned vessels to act as temporary shelters in Sumatra and Kalimantan," he said.

The ships, however, will only be used as a last resort if other efforts, including moving residents to government offices with air purifiers, prove unsuccessful, Mr Luhut added.

Indonesia earlier this month had asked several countries, including neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia and far-flung Russia, for aid, equipment and personnel to help combat the fires.

Noting the success of Russia's Be200 water bomber, Mr Luhut said he had requested similar aircraft assistance from Canada, the United States and France.

- CNA/Reuters/al

Haze victims to move to ships
Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 23 Oct 15;

As the number of victims from the haze blanketing Sumatra and Kalimantan continues to rise, the government is rolling out a plan to evacuate people living in the worst-affected areas to the sea.

A meeting at the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister on Wednesday agreed on the evacuation plan, which would first target babies and children, who are prone to sickness from the hazardous haze particles.

Late on Wednesday, 9-year-old Pekanbaru resident Ramadhani Lutfi Aerli passed away from an acute respiratory tract infection, bringing the death toll from this year’s haze crisis to 10.

“We are leaning toward evacuating [those in] regions with an Air Pollution Standard Index [ISPU] that has passed the safe level. We are discussing it and will arrive at a decision today or tomorrow,” Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said on Thursday.

The government is mulling the drastic measure because of the seriousness of the situation in some areas. “I heard that in Central Kalimantan the situation is extremely dire,” Luhut said.

Luhut also said the government was resigned to the possibility that the situation would not get better within the next five weeks as the current El Niño weather phenomenon will last until the end of the year, with many scientists predicting it could become one of the worst on record.

“We have a critical five-week period that forces us to take action immediately,” Luhut said. “The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency [BMKG] reported that there is a slim chance of rain until the end of November. From our satellite images, the fires start on peat land with a depth of between five and 10 meters. Therefore, water bombing alone will not be enough to extinguish the fires,” he said.

As dozens of fixed-wing water bombers and more than 20,000 personnel try to extinguish rampant land and forest fires, which have razed 1.7 million hectares of land in Indonesia this year, as many as 450,000 people have fallen victim to the haze, suffering from acute respiratory ailments.

With 500 more people becoming ill from the haze every week, the government has said there might be no other solution apart from evacuating people.

“We might evacuate [people] to the southern region which may have a lower ISPU. Probably in Banjarmasin [South Kalimantan],” Luhut said.

South Kalimantan has the lowest ISPU level among regions engulfed by the haze in Sumatra and Kalimantan, with Central Kalimantan being the highest.

“If the ISPU [in the south] is also severe, then they will be evacuated to ships,” said Luhut. “We will probably use ships owned by the Indonesian Military [TNI] or state-owned shipping firm PT Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia [Pelni] for the next four to five months to house the residents.”

Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said that her ministry was ready to prepare logistics for the evacuation once the government gave the go-ahead for the plan.

“There is a training center run by the Social Affairs Ministry in Banjarmasin with 250 rooms. It could accommodate 250 families. We will use this if there’s a decision to evacuate people from Central Kalimantan,” she said.

The government also plans to set up air-tight spaces for evacuees to live in.

“So these air-tight tents mean that there is no air coming in from outside, but the tents use air purifiers,” Health Minister Nila F. Moeloek told a press briefing at her office on Thursday. “We will send another five shelters to Palangkaraya [Central Kalimantan].”

She said there were already three shelters set up in Palangkaraya, and several others in Riau.

With so many government agencies involved in the haze mitigation effort, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is expected to issue a presidential instruction (Inpres) on the handling of the disaster, which would serve as legal protection for the ministries in their efforts.

“The President will issue the Inpres [...] to provide a legal umbrella for these activities,” Luhut said.

Meanwhile, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) chief Willem Rampangilei said that foreign assistance had not helped much in putting out the fires.

“Even though Australia sent its planes with big capacities of 15,000 liters, capable of conducting five water bombings a day, that just lasted for five days as they had to go back to their country because Australia also had forest fires,” he said on Thursday. “The only foreign assistance left now is from Singapore with one helicopter carrying 5 tons of water. So while there is foreign assistance, it’s not significant as it only lasted for a short period of time.”

Indonesia prepares warships to evacuate "haze" refugees
Reuters 23 Oct 15;

JAKARTA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Indonesia is preparing warships as a last resort to evacuate children and others suffering from smoke inhalation from slash-and-burn fires, a minister said on Friday, as the country struggles to contain fires expected to continue for weeks.

Southeast Asia has suffered for years from annual "haze" caused by forest and peat clearing across Indonesia, which has come under increasing political pressure to stop the problem, but so far to no avail.

Fires this year have been helped by drier weather brought by the El Nino weather phenomenon and have pushed air pollution to hazardous levels across Southeast Asia, forcing schools to close and disrupting flights.

"We are looking for a place for babies to be evacuated to if necessary," coordinating security minister Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters referring to plans to prepare six warships and two state-owned ferries.

The ships, however, will only be used as a last resort if other efforts, including moving residents to government offices with air purifiers, prove unsuccessful, Pandjaitan said.

The former general, who has been tasked by President Joko Widodo to oversee the response to the haze, said the country was treating the issue as a national disaster but stopped short of declaring a state of national emergency.

Indonesia earlier this month asked several countries, including neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia and far-flung Russia, for aid, equipment and personnel to help combat the fires.

Noting the success of Russia's Be200 water bomber, Panjaitan said he had requested similar aircraft assistance from Canada, the United States and France.

The fires are spreading to new areas like Papua and are unlikely to be put out till next year, experts say.

Widodo said no new permits would be given to plantation companies to develop peatland, and that the government would work to restore and re-irrigate drained peatland areas that are often hit by fires.

"This situation is having a major impact and has reached very unhealthy levels," he said, referring to thousands of fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Garuda said the haze had cost the state airline about $8 million in lost sales and other expenses, with 120,000 passengers cancelling flights last month alone. (Reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Police to soon probe firms involved in land fires
Antara 23 Oct 15;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Riau Provincial Police will soon investigate several companies for their alleged involvement in land and forest fires in the province.

"Right now, we have five special teams to investigate the cases of land and forest fires. These teams will continue to assist district police stations in conducting investigation," Chief of the Riau Provincial Police, Brigadier General Dolly Bambang Hermawan, said here on Friday.

It takes a long time and a lengthy procedure to investigate land fires in the concessions of timber estate and oil palm plantation companies, he said.

Citing an example, he said before the police could name PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo and PT Palm Lestari Makmur as suspects in land and forest fires, investigators must question several expert witnesses.

"There are corporate, environmental and plantation experts. We must find them in Jakarta, Bogor and Medan. Their number is very limited while at the same time, six provincial police stations are also handling the same cases," he said.

Dolly said to accelerate investigations into companies allegedly involved in land and forest fires, the Riau provincial police have set up five special teams which are focusing on law enforcement.

"The teams will cooperate with the district police units," he said.(*)

Central Kalimantan’s ex-governor legally allowed burning plantation land reports: A decree - which was enacted in 2010 - by ex-governor Agustin Teras Narang stipulated that a farmer or a company is allowed to clear the land by burning.
Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: A Central Kalimantan's governor's decree, which was enacted in 2010, stipulated that a farmer or a company is allowed to clear the land by burning.

"Every person doing land and yard clearance by limited and controlled burning should get permission from authorised officials as mentioned on the attachment in the decree," the decree said.

For land under five hectares, an individual should get permission from the community leader and sub-district's head. Each sub-district is only allowed to burn as much as 100 hectares in total, while for a village, it is 25 hectares.

Central Kalimantan's former governor, Agustin Teras Narang, has - through his Facebook account - refused the accusation that the decree he created is causing the forest fires in Kalimantan island.

"The decree was meant to control the worst forest fire that happened in 2007. Since the decree was enacted until my retirement in August, there were no burning in the forest," he said.

When contacted by, Teras said that he already warned Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the potential damage of forest burning related to Mr Widodo's programme on the rehabilitation of 1 million hectares of peatland. "I sent the letter in October last year. But he didn't even know about that letter. And now it's too late," he told

Read more!

Is Indonesia's fire crisis connected to the palm oil in our snack food?

The widespread burning of tropical rainforests and peatlands to develop palm oil plantations is one of the largest sources of carbon pollution today
Lindsey Allen The Guardian 23 Oct 15;

Traveling from California to Indonesia’s Sumatra island recently was a startling journey between two lands engulfed in flames. Although a world away from each other, these two historic fire events are connected through the cause and effect of climate change and a broken system of international commodity production that will take all of us at both ends of the supply chain to fix. This will necessitate holding Western companies accountable for the consequences of their global operations.

The conflagrations raging out of control across Sumatra and Borneo are a global scale environmental and human rights emergency, but the players involved, from the Indonesian government, commodity producers and traders, to Western snack food companies, have so far largely failed to connect the dots to strike at the core of the problem.

If you have not flown over the region recently, it is truly difficult to grasp the immense scale and extreme implications of this tragic situation. Malaysia has begun evacuating citizens from Indonesia because the risks of prolonged exposure are so severe. Flights are cancelled daily as airports across the region shut down and in Singapore schools are being closed because the air quality is so bad it is a serious threat to human health. People are literally dying because they cannot breathe.

But the smoke crisis is not just a regional issue. The widespread burning of tropical rainforests and peatlands to develop pulpwood and palm oil plantations is one of the largest sources of carbon pollution occurring in the world today. It is estimated that the fires are producing more carbon pollution than the entire daily emissions of the United States.

According to an analysis of World Resources Institute data from September, of the hundreds of fires burning in Sumatra, almost half have been traced back to pulp plantation concessions, most of which supply the logging giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). Most of the rest originate in or near palm oil plantations, many of which are connected through the big palm oil traders that purchase from them to the supply chains of international food companies, including those dubbed the Snack Food 20.

Many of these fires are a direct result of the industrial manipulation of the landscape for plantation development. Palm oil giants are accused of displacing local communities from their land and livelihood, opening up massive peat swamps with road building and forest clearance and installing extensive networks of canals. The lowering of the water table by peat canals dries out the land and allows fires to burn in areas where they would never naturally occur.

Companies like APP are quick to accuse small farmers and villagers of lighting many of the fires. Even if that is true, the displacement of communities and the drainage of peatlands by large scale plantation companies is ultimately responsible for the allowing these fires to take place. Communities whose forest-dependent subsistence livelihoods have been disrupted by plantation development often turn to clearing what land they can find, using the only cost-effective method available to them: fire.

Solving this crisis is not about fighting fires. Extinguishing thousands of peat blazes across thousands of square miles of remote tropical landscape is hugely expensive and ultimately unfeasible. The only real solution is to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

The first and most basic change needed is a total halt to plantation development on peatlands and remaining natural forests. Peat swamp soil is the result of thousands of years of accumulation of organic material. Left alone, it is one of the most effective landscapes on earth for sequestering carbon. But when drained and ignited, it releases a carbon bomb into the atmosphere.

This will require the Indonesian government to stop issuing permits on peat and for big brands to stop buying from bad actors that refuse to change.

The Indonesian government must aggressively prosecute offending companies. Permits for plantation development are granted at a screaming deal to companies that make large profits from the privilege. Using fire to clear forests is already illegal under Indonesian law, but enforcement has been so lax that no one fears punishment. This means revoking permits, arresting executives and levying serious fines.

It is crucial for all major brands that source palm oil from Indonesia - especially laggards like PepsiCo and Kraft Heinz that have yet to adopt truly responsible palm oil commitments - to finally break the link between their products and this destruction by eliminating third party suppliers that refuse to change.

It is clear the market and investors are the main forces these companies answer to and recent campaign successes have shown the power of consumer outcry to bring about corporate commitments on these issues. Consumers in the West bear a responsibility to exercise their influence to demand these companies pass strong policies and implement them fully.

From the wildfires in California to rising sea levels in New York, we stand to lose as much here from out of control climate change as those suffocating right now in Southeast Asia. Linked through global economics and a shared atmosphere, we must work together to do the hard work necessary to stop the downward spiral these fires represent.

This article was amended on 23 October 2015 to clarify the dates from which the data was drawn.

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Indonesia's Fire Crisis — The Biggest Environmental Crime of the 21st Century

Erik Meijaard Jakarta Globe 23 Oct 15;

While the haze problem from fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra is still worsening, the news seems to be slowly slipping from the headlines. Apart from the approximate 40 million people breathing in noxious smoke day in day out, not many media outlets here or overseas really seem to care about the issue. I find this astonishing. Not only is there appalling human suffering, with hundreds of thousands of people ill and many dead, the fires are a massive economic cost to the Indonesian economy.

Checking the list of the worst man-made environmental disasters ever, Indonesia’s fires are probably the biggest global environmental disaster of the 21st century.

Why has the Indonesian government not taken serious steps to stop and control the fire and haze problem? Are the few helicopters and water bombers, an insufficient supply of the right type of face masks, and some canals dug in the peat to guide water to fires really the best the government can do?

Large parts of Indonesia have now been in a state of emergency for over a month. Why has there not been a nationally declared total fire ban advertised 24/7 on all television channels? Why has there not been a clear message: you burn — you go to jail? Why has Indonesia not sent in a million soldiers to address the humanitarian and environmental crisis? Why is all government action so apparently lackluster and unfocused?

I think ultimately the answer is that the government still hasn’t recognized how serious the problem is.

$50 billion or more?

But serious it is, very serious! By its own estimate a few weeks ago, the fire and haze issue was going to cost Indonesia $35 billion. That would be about 4 percent of Indonesia’s gross national product, basically wiping out all economic growth for 2015.

I am not sure how the above estimate was made. Willem Rampangilei, the head the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), referred to World Bank data dating back to 2013 and concerning Riau province alone, which indicated economic losses related to fires of some Rp 20 trillion, or about $2 billion in 2013 rates. I guess multiplying that figure by the number of provinces with a fire problem, and again multiplying it because this is a far worse fire year than 2013, gets you to a $35 billion damage bill.

I also don’t know whether these figures take the many intangible impacts of fire into consideration, like haze-related traffic accidents, canceled flights, or businesses that cannot operate? What about the impacts of haze-related unemployment, such as the much-quoted story of Mr Slamet in Palangkaraya, who lost his construction job because of the haze. There must be thousands of people like him.

But much more importantly, how does one account for the cost of health impacts and deaths? Just as an example, there is a lot of talk about pollution levels of particulate matter (PM10) in the haze. But things are actually much worse than that. Professor Susan Page of the University of Leicester, who has worked in Kalimantan peat swamps since the early 1990s, wrote to me that “the levels of carbon monoxide and ground-level ozone are presently off the scale.” Just to be clear, carbon monoxide is the stuff people use to commit suicide and ground-level ozone is similarly highly toxic — not just to people but also to plants, so this will also impact crop productivity.

Talking about crop productivity, how will agricultural yields be affected? The oil palm industry alone for example is expected to have 10–20 percent yield reductions because of the persistent haze. In an industry worth some $20 billion, this could shave a few billion dollars off national earnings. And this doesn’t yet address the threat of countries like Singapore to ban Indonesian products associated with oil-palm or pulp-and-paper production. Indonesia’s export revenues from these two industries together exceed $40 billion, earnings the country can hardly afford to lose.

And what about the small-holder agriculture? Haze in 1997 significantly reduced bee populations and these took about three years to recover. Bees are the most crucial species in pollination. No bees, no onions, no tomatoes, no potatoes, no eggplants, and no water melons, to name a few. As Albert Einstein said: “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” At least Albert got it.

There are so many direct and indirect socio-economic impacts, and the total costs of Indonesia’s poorly managed fire problem might well reach the $50 billion mark or go beyond. One would think that such a figure would shake the government into real concrete action regarding the fire and haze disaster.

International reputation

And if those economic figures don’t succeed in getting the government focused, then surely Indonesia’s rapidly declining international reputation should make it think. Obviously, Indonesia’s direct neighbours Singapore, Malaysia, but also Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines, are already annoyed with the Indonesian government for its inability to predict and prepare for the fire disaster and to do anything effective about it.

But also in the global arena, Indonesia is going to look very bad. In Paris, next month, Indonesia will have to present its carbon reduction plans. Whatever those plans are, it will be hard to convince other governments that Indonesia can be taken seriously, considering that with the present fires the country has again launched itself to the very top of global carbon emitters.

Bambang stands in front of a pile of oil palm kernels on the side of the road during one of the most polluted days on record in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. The orange color is not enhanced or manipulated. (Photo courtesy of Bjorn Vaughn) Bambang stands in front of a pile of oil palm kernels on the side of the road during one of the most polluted days on record in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. The orange color is not enhanced or manipulated. (Photo courtesy of Bjorn Vaughn)
I think what might help to garner action both locally and globally is to call this year’s fire and haze disaster what it really is: the biggest environmental crime of the 21st century. BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 looks relatively benign compared to Indonesia’s 2015 fire crisis. And that spill was one heck of a disaster!

And I consider it a crime, not just a disaster, because even though setting fire to land remains perfectly legal in Indonesia, endangering the lives of millions of people, destroying protected forests and their wildlife, and threatening the global environment are criminal acts. This is especially the case because the fires could largely have been prevented by solid policies, land-use planning, and law enforcement. None of these were enacted, and the Indonesian government is ultimately culpable for its failure to act effectively.

The immediate solutions are obvious: a complete and enforced fire ban, especially on peat; a major scale-up of firefighting efforts, using all available means, national and international; and a prohibition on further peat development and funding for peat restoration. There is an immediate need to start divesting from all agricultural production on peat, or only allowing production that can ensure near-surface water tables. For the areas of drained, degraded peatland not under agriculture there need to be massive programs to block and fill all canals, followed by reforestation to get something like a humid microclimate at the peat surface.

None of this will happen without a fully committed government that focuses all its attention on overcoming this global disaster. There is no choice. If the government of Indonesia cares for its people, its economy, its wildlife, and for people elsewhere in the world, it immediately must do more.

Erik Meijaard coordinates the Borneo Futures initiative. Follow @emeijaard

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Indonesia: Forest fires threaten endangered animal species

Antara 23 Oct 15;

Bandung, W Java (ANTARA News) - The ongoing land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan have put the lives of endangered animal species there on the line, an environmentalist has said.

"Of course, their condition has become a cause for concern. The smoke has disrupted the health of these animals. Furthermore, the forest, which serves as their habitat, has caught fire, while water resources are also limited due to drought," research assistant of environment information center, Bumi Panda WWF Indonesia, Sani Firmansyah said here on Friday.

Among the endangered species at the center of WWFs attention are tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans, he said.

"We have been making every effort to save the animals exposed to the smoke. We have rescued and treated them. If they are found fit to return to the forest, we will release them (to their habitat)," he said.

The WWF has also tried to address the issue of haze by encouraging the government to deal with the problems caused by land and forest fires, he said.

He expressed the hope that the problem will be resolved soon and underlined that it has disrupted not only human health but animal health as well.

A young orangutan in Kalimantan has reportedly developed an upper tract respiratory infection due to haze.(*)

Forest Fire, Riau Wild Elephants on Rampage
Tempo 23 Oct 15;

TEMPO.CO, Pekanbaru-A herd of wild Sumatran elephants went on a rampage when their habitat at the Tesso Nilo National Park, Riau, went ablaze, Antara news agency reported Friday, October 23.

"For three days we put out the fire, we always meet herds of wild elephants. They are raging, letting out very loud noises. It makes the process of extinguishing fire very vulnerable," said Army Strategic Command (Kostrad) Team Commander Sergeant Dian Syaifullah to Antara in Tesso Nilo National Park, Pelalawan on Friday.

He said that there are nine Kostrad personnel working to fight fire in an area of Bukit Apolo, Bagan Limau Village, Ukui, Pelalawan Regency since October 20. Most of the forests in the Bukit Apolo now is damaged because of encroachment or converted into oil palm plantation.

"Initially we planned to stay the night at the scene of the fire, but the atmosphere is very tense and vulnerable at night because elephants are often raging, so we decided to went back,” he said.

At noon, in the vicinity of the fire Kostrad personnel often find traces of raging elephants, gardens damaged. On the third day of the fire fighting effort, the joint team was only about 100 meters from a herd of raging elephants.

"We had to stop and wait until the herd of wild elephants passed, only then we can go home," he said.

The team had to extinguish fire with makeshift equipments because access to the location of the fire is very difficult to accessed by large fire trucks and lack of water sources. Fire in the area had scorched about 40 hectares of land in three days.


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Indonesia needs water-bombing aircraft to put out fires: Indonesian envoy to Malaysia

The Star 23 Oct 15;

BANGI: Indonesia needs more equipment and not firemen to help put out its fires, said Indonesian Embassy minister counsellor Freddy M. Panggabean.

He cited equipment, especially water-bombing aircraft, to fly over the hundreds of fire hotspots that have been emitting haze over Malaysia.

“From the beginning, we never required any personnel (or) staff assistance to help with this haze problem because we have enough.

“What we need (is) the equipment and aircraft with the bigger capacity to carry water (of more than) 6,000 (litres),” he said at a forum on the haze at UKM.

It was previously reported that the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department had not received any official request from Indonesia to send firemen to put out its fires.

Department director-general Datuk Wira Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim had said that 1,500 firemen were available for two weeks for this purpose.

Hundreds of hotspots have been raging in various parts of Indonesia, especially Sumatra and Kalimantan, over the past two months.

Panggabean said that 32 helicopters and aircraft were already deployed over Indonesia to put out the fires.

Six of these were from Australia, Malaysia and Singapore. This includes seven fixed wing water-bombers and four planes for cloud seeding.

Two Russian Beriev Be-200 amphibious water-bombers, capable of dropping 12,000 litres each, have also been brought in.

Panggabean did not say how many more aircraft Indonesia needed for the fires.

Meteorological Department spokesman Dr Hisham Mohd Anip said that the northeast monsoon was expected to kick in soon.

This, he said, meant that the haze might be pushed back by winds from the South China Sea heading west next week.

“We predict that by the middle or end of next week, it (skies) will be clear, hopefully,” he said.

Indonesia requests further Australian aircraft to fight fires
Peter Alford The Australian 23 Oct 15;

Indonesia has asked for further help from Australia to tackle the worsening wildfires crisis.

Further Indonesian requests for Australian firefighting aircraft would have to be assessed against deteriorating bushfire conditions at home, Julie Bishop said today.

Ms Bishop and her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi were expected to discuss Indonesia’s worsening wildfires crisis later today in Padang, West Sumatra, where they are attending the Indian Ocean Rim Association ministerial meeting.

“We stand ready to assist Indonesia,” Ms Bishop said before their meeting. “I know that other countries in the region are helping Indonesia fight this regional challenge.

“We have made it clear to the Indonesians that we also face a challenging time as we go into the bushfire season in Australia and, of course, there are fires in NSW and Victoria.

“So we will assess any request that is made of us, but most certainly in the context of our capacity to assist.”

BNPB, Indonesia’s disaster management authority, said earlier this week it would ask for about 15 aircraft from Australia, Russia and Canada to help battle fires that stretch across the archipelago from Riau in Sumatra to Papua.

An Australian Hercules L100 water bomber, a tracker aircraft and crews from the NSW rural fire service last week helped battle some of the worst fires in South Sumatra.

But the aircraft and a group from Malaysia headed home at the weekend; Singapore continues to help with aerial firefighting and two water bombers arrived from Russia on Wednesday.

More than 450,000 Indonesians have needed medical treatment for respiratory illnesses caused by the noxious smoke and at least 12 people have died as a direct result.

The Indonesian navy today dispatched a warship each to Palembang, South Sumatra, and Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, to assist in evacuations from two of the areas worst hit by fires and choking “haze”.

The vessels, each capable of carrying up to 1,500 people will stand ready for any order to evacuate infants and young children at worst risk from the haze.

Senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan confirmed he had cancelled his trip to Washington, accompanying President Joko Widodo, to take charge of the wildfires emergency, now entering its fifth month.

“On Thursday I asked permission from the President to cancel my trip to America … so I can handle the haze problem along with the other ministries,” the Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Law said today.

Although Padang is several hundred kilometres from the worst of the Sumatra fires, Ms Bishop had a taste of conditions this morning as she jogged in the grey-yellow haze enveloping the city.

Jakarta to boost fleet of waterbombers
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Oct 15;

Indonesia is planning to reinforce the fleet of fixed-wing waterbombers involved in the ongoing firefighting operations over South Sumatra, said the country's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).

This, after two Russian Beriev Be-200 waterbombers, each capable of hauling 12,000 litres of water in its hull to douse fires, were involved in yesterday's operations.

These aircraft have special tanks designed for mixing water and firefighting chemicals to boost their effectiveness when putting out fires, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said yesterday.

"The two aircraft will continue to focus on Ogan Komering Ilir, where fires are still raging violently," he added, referring to the regency in South Sumatra, which remains one of the worst hit by peatland fires this year.

"Right now, the government is still trying to procure between 10 and 15 additional fixed-wing waterbombing aircraft from Canada, Russia and Australia."

Separately, in a report by Indonesia's Tempo news magazine earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan commented on the challenges of putting out peatland fires during this dry season.

In an apparent reply to a question on why Singapore's offer of assistance was initially turned down by his government, Mr Luhut was quoted as saying that it was because Singapore "offered only one aircraft. It was insulting".

When asked for a response at a briefing yesterday, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said:

"Singapore did offer one aircraft and we accepted the offer. It shows a good faith that we work together with our neighbours. We also work together with Malaysia, Australia. We appreciate all international assistance."

When the haze crisis peaked last month, Singapore had offered an assistance package which included a C-130 military transport plane for cloud seeding, up to two C-130s to ferry a firefighting assistance team, as well as a Chinook helicopter with a water bucket for aerial firefighting.

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Malaysia: More misery in the air

The Star 23 Oct 15;

GEORGE TOWN: All bicycle commuters and recreational cyclists in Penang are advised to stop cycling until the haze blows away.

“Don’t ride for now. When you are pedalling, you are breathing fast and the mucous lining in your throat and nose will not be able to help catch the smoke particles,” said G Club Penang Cyclists chairman Datuk Dr Lim Seh Guan.

Dr Lim, a ear, nose and throat surgeon, said the club had told its network of about 10,000 cyclists to call off all rides.

“If we exert ourselves and breathe fast, the particles will enter our lungs.

“I cannot envision when the particles will be able to come out after that and I am worried about possible carcinogenic elements in the particles too.

“I urge everyone to avoid any strenuous physical activity and wear good quality masks,” he said.

At 3am yesterday, the air pollutant index (API) in Penang hit 236 at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), up from 104 on Tuesday. By 10am, the reading at the USM monitoring station had risen to 248.

On the mainland at 10am yesterday, the monitoring station in Seberang Jaya clocked a reading of 287 and at Prai, the reading was 197.

A reading of 201 to 300 is considered very unhealthy.

USM cancelled all its activities including lectures and exams in Gelugor and its branch campuses in Bertam and Nibong Tebal starting yesterday.

This order extends to outsiders who have events planned within these campuses, said USM registrar Siti Zubaidah A. Hamid in a statement yesterday morning.

Indoor activities such as lectures, exams and laboratory work are postponed until further notice.

This weekend’s 25th USM Inter-national Netball Festival is also postponed.

Meanwhile, a check with a local pharmacy showed that the retail prices of face masks remained the same even though suppliers had increased wholesale prices by RM1 to RM1.50.

A pharmacist who wished to be known only as Lee said three-ply surgical masks at four pieces per pack were still selling at RM2.

Smog gets in their eyes
The Star 23 Oct 15;

THICK haze shrouded Penang Hill yesterday. The imposing peak had vanished from sight.

I could not see the iconic Kek Lok Si Temple and its towering Goddess of Mercy statue either, from the balcony of my condominium unit in Bandar Baru Air Itam.

A check at the Education Ministry website did not indicate that schools in Penang would be closed due to the smog.

Before sending my daughter to school for the afternoon session on Wednesday, I checked the website and the social media again to see whether there was any last-minute announcement of school closure.

In the car, my wife grumbled that schools in other states were closed occasionally, but it had only been done twice in Penang.

“The haze is so bad today, with a burning smell. Something must be wrong with the Air Pollution Index reading,” she fumed.

A day earlier, she had posted a suggestion on the Ministry website, that schools in Penang be closed for health reasons.

As we reached Convent Light Street at 1.05pm, the Rela guard came up to the car and made some hand gestures. We were then told the school was closed.

It was a shock. We couldn’t believe this was happening in the era of social media, where information is disseminated in a jiffy. Why were we informed at the last minute?

This was the question asked by thousands of other parents who have school-going children in the afternoon session.

If the state Education Department had made the announcement at 11am, then many with a smartphone would have known about the closure in, say, 30 minutes.

The media would have announced it in their online reports. The message would have gone viral with parents forwarding it to others.

It is worse for parents who send their children to school by school van or bus. Many pupils were already in school when the announcement was made about 1pm.

Some kids were lucky as their parents or relatives came to pick them up later. But some parents who were working were unable to do so.

Their children were kept in school till evening but there were no lessons. Pity the teachers, since many of them could not go back home as they had to keep an eye on the kids.

Parents of the 95 affected schools in Penang are seething with anger.

To be fair, it would not have been easy for the state Education director, Shaari Osman, to make a decision on school closure as he probably had to follow standard operating procedure, including getting approval from the ministry.

He was quoted in The Star as saying that he decided at about 11.30am to suspend the afternoon session when the API neared 150. The department then began faxing out the directive to schools.

At my daughter’s school, the announcement was made via the public address system at 12.45pm. Teachers also went around to inform parents who were still in the school compound.

The media only knew about the closure when irate parents began calling them.

Pity the canteen operators too. They would have prepared much food, only to see it wasted. Who is going to compensate them?

Parents are hoping the department would take some lessons from this episode. There should not be a recurrence.

23 areas still show unhealthy API readings
AWAINA ARBEE New Straits Times 23 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: As of 2pm today, 23 areas still record unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings, while 28 registered moderate levels.

Noon readings had shown unhealthy levels for Indera Mahkota, Kuantan, but dipped to moderate level at 2pm.

At the same time, Shah Alam reached unhealthy levels at 105 and Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur (101).

Other areas with unhealthy API were Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu.

Schools in areas with unhealthy API must close
TASNIM LOKMAN New Straits Times 23 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Government and government assisted schools in areas affected by a school closure directive must close, the Education Ministry said in a statement.

Discretion is, however, given to private schools registered with the ministry. Government and government assisted schools in areas not affected by a directive close can use their autonomy to decide what is best for their students based on ministry guidelines.

The ministry said state departments, school districts offices and also the school management across the country must continuously monitor Air Pollutant Index readings issued from time to time by the authorities.

In the event of an increase in API reading to unhealthy and very unhealthy, the ministry said the concerned party may take action at their respective levels, in line with the ministry’s guidelines.

The true cost of Malaysia haze
Stephanie Scawen Al Jazeera Yahoo News 23 Oct 15;

The choking haze which has persisted over Malaysia and Singapore for the past two months has so far cost the economies of both countries hundreds of millions of dollars, according to analyst estimations, yet the true cost is impossible to calculate until the skies finally clear.

Professor Euston Quah, from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, warned that the crisis could have a greater impact than the three-month long 1997 haze crisis, which caused an estimated $9bn in losses in economic activity across Southeast Asia.

“The pollution standards index readings [on the Malay peninsula] thus far [in 2015] have been almost as high as that of 1997. This tells me that together with the duration, the 2015 haze damages can be expected to be higher,” Quah told Al Jazeera.

The total economic cost will take months to assess, and will have to cover all aspects of daily life – lost productivity, lost tourism and lost workdays through respiratory illness, as well as higher prices for fresh food products.

Meanwhile, the smoke from Indonesian forest fires permeates all walks of life on the Malay peninsula today. Schools have closed, flights are being cancelled and sea traffic through the Malacca Strait, one the world’s busiest shipping lanes, has been delayed because of poor visibility.

Promises to extinguish the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia, have had little impact to date. Some experts predict that unless persistent rain falls soon, the smog could last until the New Year.

Short tempers

The longer the haze has continued, the shorter the tempers in Singapore and Malaysia have become over the apparent inability to stop the fires from being started in the first place.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) began legal proceedings under its Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) against five Indonesian companies in September and a sixth this month, all of whom are believed in part to be behind the haze.

The Preventative Measures Notice serves as a kind of “cease and desist” request and asks offending companies to present plans to the NEA on how the companies plan to extinguish fires and a promise not to start any new ones.

The act is unique in that it can fine offenders - Singaporean or foreign - around $70,000 for each day they contribute to hazardous levels of haze.

Malaysia’s government is drafting similar legislation but questions remain if the fines are large enough to act as a deterrent.

Across the 10-strong Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) region, the Transboundary Haze Pollution Agreement has been in existence since 2002. It seeks to mitigate the effects of the haze, but Indonesia – the source of the majority of fires – only ratified the agreement last year and was the last ASEAN nation to do so.

Consumers in Singapore are trying an informal boycott on the country, aiming to hurt perpetrators where it hurts most: the bottom line.

Consumer power

“The call for consumers to stop buying products from companies involved in purchasing or sourcing wood based products that cause the haze will pressure companies to be more responsible in [their] buying or sourcing from sustainable sources,” Indrani Thuraisingham, from Consumers International in Malaysia, told Al Jazeera.
“Consumers will send a strong signal through their purchasing power to companies which contribute to this environmental disaster year after year.”

But Quah, from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, does not believe boycotts will help fight the fires.

He told Al Jazeera that while he was not against such action, its impact would be limited.

“It is futile to ban products simply because one has to clearly identify those plantations who have committed the act of clearing land by fires versus those that had not.”

Quah said there was a danger of penalizing producers who used palm oil products in their goods when they either had no knowledge of starting fires or were complicit in haze-causing practices.

“There are just too [many] products which have palm oil as one of the ingredients and how do we know for certain which plantations are 'bad' and which are 'good'”?
While haze has been an annual problem for decades, the severity of this year’s smog is being blamed by experts on the El Nino phenomenon, which brings drought and drier weather than normal to South East Asia.

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Indonesian haze reaches the Philippines

AFP AsiaOne 23 Oct 15;

MANILA - Haze from Indonesian forest fires has spread to the southern and central Philippines, disrupting air traffic and prompting warnings for residents to wear face masks, authorities said Friday.

The large southern Philippine island of Mindanao is more than 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) from the nearest fires but the haze has become a worsening problem across the island over the past week, aviation authorities said.

It spread to the country's central islands of Cebu and Negros on Friday, disrupting air traffic, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesman Eric Apolonio said.

Eight domestic flights have been cancelled and dozens delayed since the problem began on October 16, affecting thousands of passengers, he added.

On some occasions, pilots could not see the airstrip as they were coming in to land.

"If you cannot see the runway it is very dangerous. You cannot always depend on instruments," he told AFP.

Dense haze hung over Davao, Mindanao's largest city of 1.5 million people, on Friday afternoon, plunging it under an early twilight.

Its airport, one of those affected according to Apolonio, handles 48 flights a day.

With visibility down to 1.2 kilometres at some times during the day, far less than the usual 10 kilometres, aircraft are forced to circle and wait above the runways for up to an hour, according to Apolonio.

Apolonio said the flight delays were also disrupting the busy airport of capital Manila, with some Mindanao-bound flights being held back.

Because Manila airport is operating at its full capacity of 40 landings and take-offs per hour, any delay involving Mindanao flights disrupts the aircraft queue for the rest of the day, he added.

For nearly two months, dense haze produced by Indonesian slash-and-burn farmers have suffocated vast expanses of Southeast Asia.

This has caused rates of respiratory illnesses to soar, schools to close, and scores of flights and some international events to be cancelled.

Much of the burning is in peatlands being drained and cleared at a rapid rate to make way for agriculture.

The Philippines has not been badly impacted.

It may have worsened recently due to Typhoon Koppu, which hit the northern Philippines on October 18, drawing the haze towards it, state weather forecaster Manny Mendoza told AFP.

While the seasonal northeast monsoons are expected to push back some of the haze from Indonesia over the coming weeks, any storms hitting the Philippines the rest of the year could aggravate the problem, he said.

"We can't say at this point that the smoke and haze will go away soon. This is expected to continue," Mendoza said.

The haze was not so bad as to raise a medical alarm, but residents in affected areas are being advised to wear face masks, according to health department spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy.

"The content (of the smoke) is not that much but even small amounts of ash could trigger an asthma attack, or cardio-pulmonary obstructive disease," he told AFP.

Haze suspends operations at 6 airports 23 Oct 15;

Malaysia's iconic Petronas twin towers and Kuala Lumpur's skyline are shrouded in thick haze on Wednesday (Oct. 21). Fires raging across huge areas of Indonesia are spreading the haze to other Southeast Asian countries, including the southern portion of the Philippines. Manan Vatsyayana, AFP
MANILA - Six airports in Visayas and Mindanao suspended operations on Friday due to the haze from the ongoing forest fires in Indonesia.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said those affected were the Cotobato Airport, Mactan Airport in Cebu, Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental, Tamblan Airport in General Santos City, Zamboanga Airport, and Davao Airport.

CAAP did not issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) prohibiting general aviation flight operations as the interruption in airport operations is not expected to last the whole day

Operations at the six airports will resume once towers achieve clear visibility.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has yet to release an advisory on cancelled or delayed flights due to bad weather on today.

State weather bureau PAGASA earlier said the southwest monsoon enhanced by typhoon "Lando" pushed the haze from Indonesia towards the Philippines. []

Indonesia has come under increased pressure from its neighbours to contain the forest fires caused by slash-and-burn agriculture practices, a report from Reuters said.

However, it has failed to put out the fires, with "hot spots" growing in eastern parts of the country and industry officials and analysts estimating the smoke will last until early 2016.

Indonesian scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research, Herry Purnomo said 30 million people had been affected by the haze this year. -- With a report from Henry Atuelan, radio dzMM

Wider area of Mindanao hit by haze than reported
Raul Dancel, The Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Oct 15;

Haze caused by Indonesia's wildfires has reached a far wider area in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao than earlier reported.

Thin layers of greyish cloud consistent with haze were observed yesterday in parts of Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces in the southern half of Mindanao, news network ABS- CBN reported.

Haze was earlier reported to have blanketed the cities of Davao and General Santos in southern Mindanao, and a third city, Cagayan de Oro, farther north of the island.

Weather officials said monsoon winds blowing north-east could be causing smoke and dust from nearly a thousand forest fires in Indonesia's Kalimantan region 1,000km away to drift towards Mindanao.

Wind patterns created by Typhoon Koppu, which pummelled the northern Philippines for four days from last Saturday, might have also created a pathway that carried the haze from Kaliman- tan to Mindanao.

Early this month, metropolitan Cebu in central Philippines was enveloped in a bluish-grey and unusually thick layer of haze for more than a week.

Meteorologists at the time said the haze had actually spread across Mindanao as well, but it was thickest and most visible in Cebu because of a pocket of air created by a tropical storm and local pollution over the city, home to over four million.

Cebu officials issued health advisories while the civil aviation authorities grounded small planes incapable of landing without pilot assistance.

The haze across Mindanao has not been as thick as in Cebu, and local officials said it does not pose any health risk.

"There is no reason to be alarmed," said weather forecaster Gerry Pedrico.

Dr Herry Purnomo, a scientist at Indonesia's Centre for International Forestry Research, said 30 million people in Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand have been affected by the haze so far this year.

"It is as bad as what happened in 1997, 1998 and 2006," he said.

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Philippines: Typhoon Koppu causes widespread damage to farmland

Following the typhoon, most of the farmland in the province of Nueva Ecija has been flooded and covered by landslides, while newly-planted crops have been destroyed.
Aya Lowe Channel NewsAsia 23 Oct 15;

NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines: When Typhoon Koppu hit the Philippine island of Luzon last Sunday (Oct 18), heavy rains bringing flash floods and landslides caused widespread damage to the northern areas of the country and displaced tens of thousands of residents.

One of its biggest casualties was the Philippines’ farmlands in the province of Nueva Ecija, which lies about 145 kilometres from Manila. Most residents of Nueva Ecija rely on agriculture as their main source of income. Following the typhoon, most of the farmland has been flooded and covered by landslides, while newly-planted crops have been destroyed.

Kaiser Tablang, a farmer who owns 1.5 hectares of crops, had only recently planted a selection of beans, eggplant and corn in the Nueva Ecija town of Galbadon. After the typhoon hit, he found his farmland completely covered in rubble from a nearby landslide.

He said this is not the first time it has happened. “A lot was damaged here compared to the last storm. Almost nothing has been left."

Mr Tablang is not alone. A glimpse of the landscape around him shows hectares upon hectares of ruined crops.

Concerns of an upcoming dry season caused by El Nino, a weather phenomenon which leads to dry spells, had prompted many farmers to plant their crops two months earlier than usual. Then Typhoon Koppu came along and destroyed it all. Early estimates by the Department of Agriculture put the losses at US$137 million.

Rice crops, which make up the majority of produce grown in the region, were one of the hardest hit.

Said Evelyn Santos, head of the Crop Development Division at the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist in Nueva Ecija: “The situation here with farmers is how to start farming again especially if they do not have any more capital. They need the government support on re-starting their farms, especially in securing the provision of seeds via full subsidies of seeds and crop insurance from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation."

The Agri-Pinoy trading building in Nueva Ecija is usually busy with farmers and traders selling their goods. Now it stands empty as farmers try to assess the damage and re-plant their crops.

According to Mrs Santos, farmers have lost around 40 per cent to 50 per cent of their profits for the year. The drop in production means the Philippines could be forced to import more rice. The country is one of the world's biggest buyers of rice. Imports approved for delivery this year reached nearly 1.8 million tonnes, mainly from Vietnam and Thailand.

On the bright side, the rains brought by Typhoon Koppu have filled up water-starved dams. Farmers can begin planting again without having to worry too much about water supply.

But a lot of work has to be done before that can happen. Farmers like Mr Tablang now have to spend the next few months getting rocks and rubble from the landslide off their land, to make it ready for re-planting.

- CNA/ms

Typhoon Koppu the most destructive in Philippines this year
Julie M. Aurelio and Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Enquirer AsiaOne 23 Oct 15;

ALTHOUGH it has weakened into a low pressure area, "Lando" is the most destructive typhoon to hit the country so far this year, leaving behind more than P7.3 billion (S$218 million) in damage to agriculture and infrastructure, and at least 41 lives lost.

"So far, for this year, Lando is the worst in terms of the casualties and the damage it caused. We hope this will be the last," said Romina Marasigan, spokesperson of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC.)

Lando (international name: Koppu) was the 12th storm to batter the Philippines this year. When it first struck the east coast of Luzon on Sunday morning, its gusts reached 210 kilometers an hour, making it the second strongest storm to hit the country this year.

As of Thursday afternoon, the low pressure area was spotted 240 km east of Basco, Batanes.

Of the damage recorded all over Luzon, P6.43 billion was accounted for by agricultural crops and P902.39 million by infrastructure.

So far, the agency has confirmed 41 deaths in Luzon, 78 injured and five still missing.

In its update on Thursday, the NDRRMC said the typhoon affected 1,242,239 persons in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol, Metro Manila and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

Of the affected people, 113,584 are still in 455 evacuation centres.

So far, local authorities, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and nongovernment units have given P23.21 million worth of assistance to the affected families.

Blackout, flooding

Province-wide power outages remain in the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Aurora, Quezon, Kalinga and Mountain Province, as well as five cities and 86 towns.

Sixteen passengers, three motorized bancas, and four rolling cargoes are still stranded because of rough seas.

Since hitting land on Sunday, the NDRRMC has monitored 765 flooding incidents in the provinces of Pangasinan, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Bulacan, Pampanga, Zambales, Cagayan and Benguet.

Floods and landslides caused 101 roads and 11 bridges in northern and Central Luzon to be impassable, while 18,758 houses were damaged.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) placed Lando's damage to national roads, bridges and flood control facilities in five Luzon regions at P927.71 million.

In a report, DPWH Bureau of Maintenance Thursday said that damage to flood control projects alone amounted to P435.56 million.

Central Luzon topped the list with damage reaching P448.96 million, including more than P218 million worth of flood control facilities and P145 million in damaged bridges.

Region III was followed by CAR with P209.24 million; Cagayan Valley, P201.63 million; Ilocos, P67.35 million and Bicol, P520,000.

The DPWH also reported that as of Thursday morning, sections of 39 national roads in northern and Central Luzon remained closed to vehicular traffic due to landslides, floods, sunken roadways and fallen electric posts, trees and other debris.

Twenty-five of these roads are in CAR while the remaining 14 are in Central Luzon.

The closed thoroughfares include Kennon Road and three other roads in Baguio City-Legarda Road, Western Link Circumferential Road and Military Fort Road.

Also impassable to all types of vehicles are eight roads in Benguet province; five in Tarlac; four each in Kalinga and Pampanga; three in Mountain Province; two each in Abra, Apayao, Ifugao, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija; and one in Aurora.

Dalton Pass now open

The DPWH office in Cagayan Valley said the landslide-prone Dalton Pass in Nueva Vizcaya had been cleared and opened to two-way traffic on Wednesday morning.

DPWH Director Nerie Bueno in Cagayan Valley told the Inquirer that the regional office had "prepositioned road-clearing equipment and field personnel who will promptly respond to rescue and clearing operations along national highways and bridges in the region."

Contacted by phone, Bueno recalled that on Oct. 19 evening, "massive landslides took place in Barangay (Village) Villa Flores in Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, causing road closure and traffic buildup."

However, the "road sections were promptly cleared and opened to traffic at 8:30 a.m. the following day," she said.

Later that day, an undisclosed number of vehicles were stalled in Sta. Fe after three trailer trucks broke down in separate locations in the municipality.

"This led some undisciplined motorists to counterflow on both lanes, causing traffic buildup," said Bueno.

The DPWH field staff "coordinated with the provincial government in controlling the situation."

Additional reporting by Erika Sauler.

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Indonesia: Jakarta's Reclamation Project Could Worsen Floods

Lenny Tristia Tambun Jakarta Globe 23 Oct 15;

Jakarta. The Indonesian Forum for Environment, known as Walhi, claims Jakarta's reclamation project along the capital's norther coastline will worsen flooding which plagues the city each year.

The reclamation will cause the river banks in the city to drop lower, allowing sea water to overflow in to city easier.

"Ground water consumption from time to time makes the whole thing worse as it contributes to the lowering of the ground level. The Jakarta provincial government has not found a solution to excessive ground water consumption just yet," Zaenal Muttaqin, Walhi Deputy Director, said at City Hall on Thursday.

Jakarta is "sinking" by an estimated 17 centimeters each year.

"[The Jakarta government] better finish the normalization project of 13 rivers in the capital," he said.

Jakarta Development Planning Agency head Tuty Kusumawati said the agency has conducted research for the reclamation project, including an environmental impact assessment.

"We have also gained permission from the Ministry of Environmental Affairs," she said.

The Jakarta government is currently working on local bills for the spatial planning for Jakarta's northern coastline for the management of all 17 islands involved in the reclamation.

Jakartans question land reclamation
Dewanti A. Wardhani, The Jakarta Post 23 Oct 15;

The Jakarta administration was showered with criticism on Thursday during a public consultation discussing the draft bylaw on Jakarta north coast strategic area spatial planning.

The draft bylaw specifically regulates spatial planning on the planned 17 man-made islets off the coast.

While the draft bylaw is under deliberation, the city administration has issued construction permits for the islets. In fact, construction of Islet D and part of Islet C has finished while Islet G construction is ongoing.

Deputy director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Zaenal Muttaqien, said that the organization maintained its standpoint of rejecting land reclamation, as it posed various threats to the environment.

“Jakarta will face an environmental disaster if the city administration continues the land reclamation project,” Zaenal said during the consultation at City Hall.

Zaenal said that ocean currents would change and increase, causing sea water to flow onto land and cause flooding.

He further said that land reclamation would not offer a solution for land subsidence, as had been repeatedly mentioned by Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

Many people have mistaken the reclamation of 17 islets for the giant sea wall proposed under the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development by Dutch (NCICD) consultants. The giant sea wall has been touted by the consultants as a solution to land subsidence, but reclamation of the 17 islets is not part of the giant sea wall.

Many scientists oppose both reclamation and the giant sea wall, citing environmental concerns, including island loss from sand mining. They have also said the solution to land subsidence is stopping groundwater extraction.

Other participants during the consultation pointed out the many problems involving land reclamation, such as undersea cables and sea traffic. The Transportation Ministry’s Tanjung Priok Port Authority representative, Indra, for example, said that the land reclamation would hamper ships traveling to and from the port.

“The islets will be built along the north coast. Meanwhile, there are a number of seaports along the north coast, from Muara Angke, Sunda Kelapa, Tanjung Priok to Marunda. This requires a permit from the Transportation Ministry because this concerns the safety and security of seafaring,” Indra said.

Further, Indonesian Association of Submarine Communications Cable Systems representative Suherna warned that many telecommunication provider cables were located under a number of the planned islets.

“There are many cables, for example from Indosat, XL, Telkomsel, and Matrix, that would be affected by land reclamation. If the developers are not careful, communication between islands and countries may be completely cut off,” he said.

Suherna said that developers and telecommunication providers had not agreed upon an arrangement to move the cables, yet a number of developers had already begun construction.

“From my understanding, construction is not supposed to begin without an agreement, because the consequences are very serious,” he said.

About 1,000 fishermen in Muara Angke, North Jakarta, have complained that reclamation of Islet D and C has forced them to sail further because water near the islets had gone murky with white mud, killing the fish.

Prominent engineer Sawarendro, one of the main consultants for the draft bylaw who also works for Witteveen+Bos, a consultant for Islet C and D by developer PT Kapuk Naga Indah, acknowledged that negative effects may come with land reclamation, but said that such effects can be “avoided with good planning and implementation”.

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Indonesia: President to tighten timber certification

The Jakarta Post 22 Oct 15;

The government is set to cancel its plan to relax certification requirements for downstream timber products.

Previously, the Trade Ministry said that small and medium enterprises should be allowed to export their timber products without meeting the criteria of the timber legality verification system (SVLK) as part of the ministry’s new policies on deregulation. According to Trade Minister Thomas Trikasih Lembong, among the 32 rules that were supposed to be deregulated, one of them included a mandatory SVLK for downstream timber products such as furniture.

“We must understand that deregulation has limits. There are also positive regulations that are very worthy and should be maintained,” Thomas said after the opening ceremony of the 2015 Trade Expo Indonesia (TEI) in Jakarta on Wednesday.

According to Thomas, the plan was canceled after the ministry received feedback from the European Union, the Environment and Forestry Minister and NGOs.

“I learned that SVLK is a very sophisticated and good system and it will add value to Indonesia’s timber product exports,” said Thomas.

SVLK aims to reduce illegal logging and timber trading as well as improve the management of industrial timber products. It will also help prevent the emergence of black markets.

Thomas said the mandatory SVLK for downstream timber products would be fully enforced next year. All uncertified timber products will not be allowed to be exported due to their unverified origins.

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