Indonesian govt rapped over lack of action on haze
AS forest fires rage in Indonesia, the republic’s environmental groups have launched a stinging rebuke against the Indonesian government for its lack of seriousness in tackling the fires, which have led to haze blanketing the region.
Five non-governmental organisations, which included prominent environmental watchdog Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute and the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), claimed that the government had committed a serious “breach of human rights” for failing to control fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Singapore’s The Straits Times quoted Kontras coordinator Yati Andriani as saying that the NGOs had received reports that several pregnant women in remote Hanjak Maju village in central Kalimantan’s Pulang Pisau regency faced difficulties when they tried to evacuate to safer ground.
“So many basic rights have been breached — rights to have access to clean air, health, mobility without restraint and education. This is not just about the haze blocking visibility,” she was quoted as saying.
Walhi head Khalisah Khalid lamented the lack of action taken against individuals or companies responsible for the forest fires.
Ten companies found guilty of the fires between 2012 and 2015 had yet to be penalised, she was quoted as saying by Bernama.
Walhi executive director in Jambi, Rudiansyah, was quoted as saying that the authorities acted selectively on those responsible for the forest fires.
“More than 11,000ha of forest land in Jambi are on fire and no action has been taken against anyone.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, as quoted by the Antara news agency, expressed regret over efforts by district authorities in handling forest fires, which had caused severe haze in Kalimantan, Riau and Jambi.
“We have increased the number of teams of firefighters. But if there is no support from district authorities, it will be difficult to resolve the issue.
“We have everything, but (the resources are) not used properly. If they are used properly, I am convinced that the problem can be tackled.”
According to the Antara report, the people were angry that Riau governor Syamsuar and Pekanbaru mayor Firdaus were abroad even as the haze situation was worsening.
Beginning January, more than 42,000ha of forest and plantation land in several provinces in Indonesia have been on fire.
Indonesian reports claimed that two people died in the wake of the haze.
Indonesian media outlet Kompas reported that a 4-month-old baby girl, whose parents were farmers in the Talang Bulu village in the Banyuasin regency in south Sumatra, died on Sunday at Ar-Rasyid Hospital in Palembang.
Another news website, Republika.co.id, reported that a man, 59, from Pekanbaru was found dead on Aug 25, sitting against a tree in thick smog in his plantation.
The Jakarta Post reported that poor visibility over Kalimantan had led to the cancellation of more than 100 flights by Garuda Indonesia, Citilink, as well as Lion Air Group’s Lion Air, Wings Air and Batik Air.
Bambang Hartanto, the head of Kalimarau Airport in Berau, east Kalimantan, was quoted as saying that flight visibility had been reduced to only 500m.
The visibility considered safe for landings is 3,500m.
Joko was quoted as saying that he had instructed that cloud seeding operations be intensified and that all stakeholders needed to cooperate to overcome the problem.
The Jakarta Post report also highlighted the Indonesian government’s reluctance to accept Malaysia’s offer to help battle forest fires.
Agus Wibowo, the spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency, was quoted as saying that while Indonesia appreciated the offer, it would not accept it yet.
“Indonesia can handle the problem. The central government is working hand in hand with local administrations, as well as businesses, to put out the fires.”
He said at least 9,072 personnel from the agency and security forces had been deployed to fire-affected regions of Riau, Jambi, south Sumatra, west Kalimantan, central Kalimantan and south Kalimantan. Forty-four water-bombing helicopters had also been mobilised.
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