Jakarta – The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) says that the deployment of the TNI (Indonesian military) and Polri (Indonesian police) personnel to help extinguish forest and land fires (Karhutla) fails to address the root cause of the problem. The government should instead force companies to deal with fires on their concession areas.
"Honestly we think that in the context of nationalism this is quite brazen. The defenders of our sovereignty are being used to fight fires caused by corporations", said Walhi's Food, Water and Essential Ecosystem Campaign Manager Walhi Wahyu A Perdana at his office in Jakarta on Thursday August 1.
According to Perdana, the government should act more firmly by enforcing the law and making the companies concerned responsible for restoring the damage and providing compensation.
Walhi recorded 4,258 hotspots between January and July and some 2,087 of these are located on concession land or Peatland Hydrological Units (KHG).
Perdana said that there are 613 companies operating on these concession areas and the government, he said, needs to act firmly against them.
"Referring to Article 88 on absolute liability under the Law on Protecting and Managing the Environment, anyone who damages the environment, whether they be individuals or a legal entity, have two responsibilities, compensation and restoration without requiring evidence [that they started the fires on their land]", he explained.Perdana said that the government can actually take legal steps against companies. Moreover the Ministry for the Environment and Forestry has already won law suits against several companies, although to this day these have not been pursued.
"In late 2018 a court decided that they must compensate the cost of damages and restore the environment meaning not using government money. But to this day it hasn't been pursued. The state has a way to force this, freeze their bank accounts and so forth", he said.He emphasised furthermore that the involvement of security personnel may perhaps only be allowed in an emergency situation, but this is not a solution.
"But how is it that every year the onus is on state finances for crimes which should be the responsibility of corporations. It doesn't address the root of the problem, yet the legal grounds are strong", he added.
Some 5,929 personnel have been deployed to put out forest and land fires in Riau, South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and Jambi province.
The personnel involved came from land and air units from the TNI, Polri, the West Sumatra Disaster Relief Agency (BPBD), the Fire Concern Society and various government ministries and agencies. (ani/arh)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Walhi Tak Rela TNI Padamkan Karhutla yang Dipicu Korporasi".]