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 Smoking gun in Malaysian hands

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Aantal berichten : 2586
Registratiedatum : 03-01-09
Woonplaats : Selandia Baru

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BerichtOnderwerp: Smoking gun in Malaysian hands   Smoking gun in Malaysian hands Icon_minitimezo 23 jun 2013 - 23:25

The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru , Sunday, June 23 2013,

Preliminary investigations have singled out eight plantation companies owned by Malaysian investors as the source of forest fires in Riau that have caused Southeast Asia’s worst ever air pollution crisis.

The fires have started a diplomatic war of words between Indonesia, as the source of the problem, and Singapore and Malaysia, as the countries receiving the brunt of the smog.

Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya suggested on Saturday that the eight palm-oil companies were using illegal slash-and-burn methods as the cheapest way to clear land for cultivation.

“The ministry is still gathering more evidence and verification in the field. The fires are, for sure, on their concessions,” said Balthasar, in Riau’s capital Pekanbaru.

“I will immediately meet my Malaysian counterpart to inform him of the findings and seek ways to resolve the current issue and stop recurrence in the future,” he said. The allegations will be followed up by Riau Police.

The companies in question are PT Langgam Inti Hibrida, PT Bumi Reksa Nusa Sejati, PT Tunggal Mitra Plantation, PT Udaya Loh Denawi, PT Adei Plantation, PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa, PT Multi Gambut Industri, and PT Mustika Agro Lestari.

Tunggal Mitra is a unit of Minamas Plantation, subsidiary of Malaysia-based Sime Darby Plantations, while Adei Plantation is owned by Kepong Berhard. The Jakarta Post’s emails for clarification to these companies have gone unanswered.

The Environment Ministry’s deputy for environmental degradation and climate change, Arief Yuwono, said that under the environment law, the penalties for causing illegal forest fires are a maximum of 10 years in prison and fines of up to 5 billion rupiah (US$504,000).

Six other companies are also involved, but Balthasar refused to name them.

Plantation companies have often ordered local people to burn forest or peatland near their concessions, hoping that the fire will spread onto their land.

“Once the fire takes hold of their concessions, the companies shift the blame onto the local residents as if the fire had accidentally and spread to their land,” the Minister said.

In the past week, smog from the fires has brought misery to Singapore and western part of Malaysia. Air quality in Singapore improved drastically to “moderate” on Saturday from life-threatening levels on Friday afternoon, after the Indonesian government declared a state of emergency in Riau, the source of most of the smoke.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) sent two helicopters for water bombing on Friday. Cassa and Hercules aircraft from the Air Force are ready for cloud seeding over the next month.

As the haze obscures visibility and provokes numerous coughing fits in Singapore, there has been a 22 percent increase in outbound flight searches this week, compared to the previous week, according to global travel search site Skyscanner. Bali, Bangkok and Hong Kong topped the searched destinations.

Chairman of the Indonesian Travel and Tour Companies Association (ASITA) Asnawi Bahar, however, said there had been no indication of a rise in the number of tourists from Singapore, or cancellations of visits by Indonesians to Singapore.

“We have not seen any impact of haze. Demand from both inbound and outbound tourists between the two countries remain shealthy,” said Asnawi.

“But we’re going to have a meeting on June 28th to update and review the problem because if the haze continues in the next few months, it will severely impact the travel industry.”

Smailing Tour spokesman Wisnu Wardhana said the agency had not seen any decrease in demand to Singapore.

“There have been no cancellations for packages that include visits to Marina Bay Sands, Raffless, Merlion Park or Universal Studios. We just sent 7 groups of travelers to Singapore, and we are going to send another group next week,” he said.

Around 1.5 million Indonesian visited Singapore every year, accounting for around 15 percent of total tourist arrivals in Singapore.

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BerichtOnderwerp: 14 companies identified as alleged perpetrators in land and forest fires in Riau   Smoking gun in Malaysian hands Icon_minitimezo 23 jun 2013 - 23:39

The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru,  Saturday, June 22 2013,

Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said 14 companies had been identified for alleged involvement in land and forest fires in Riau.
“According to data from our staff carrying out investigations, eight companies were identified [for being involved in the land and forest fires]; but, the number has now increased to 14 companies,” said Balthasar in Pekanbaru as quoted by Antara news agency.
Following up on the identification, the minister said a further investigation would be carried out to disclose where the companies came from.
“There are indications that the eight companies identified earlier are foreign companies from Malaysia; no other foreign companies except those from Malaysia have been identified,” said Balthasar.
Deputy Environment Minister for Environmental Damage Control and Climate Change, Arif Yuwono, said the ministry had dispatched an investigation team to several locations of land and forest fires on Friday. It later revealed that there was a deliberate lighting of fires with the intent to clear land for industrial purposes, he said.
“The direction of the fires as well as its source have become clear; so it is obvious whether they were accidentally lit or if they were started intentionally,” said Arif.
He said civil servant investigators (PPNS) from the Forestry Ministry would carry out a preliminary examination on the case and step up its investigation if they obtained sufficient evidence from the field.
“While carrying out the investigation, we will keep upholding the principle of presumption of innocence,” said Arif.

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Aantal berichten : 2586
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BerichtOnderwerp: Re: Smoking gun in Malaysian hands   Smoking gun in Malaysian hands Icon_minitimewo 26 jun 2013 - 1:45

The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru  Tuesday, June 25 2013

Smoking gun in Malaysian hands ASAPIn flames: A car drives past burning trees planted for palm oil during severe haze in Bangko Pusako district in Rokan Hilir, Riau province, on Monday. Reuters/Beawiharta
The haze in Dumai City and Bengkalis Regency in Riau caused major upheaval as residents evacuated their children and fishermen stopped marine activity.

On Monday, Antara news agency reported that the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) rose to 831. Under normal conditions, the PSI range is between zero and 50; above 300 is considered hazardous.

The air pollutant level was measured by air pollutant standards index (ISPU) equipment belonging to PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia (CPI).

Jonly Manurung, a resident of Dumai, said he would send his children to Medan, North Sumatra, to avoid the haze.

“If they stayed here, it would be hard to prevent them from playing outdoors, so it is better to send them to Medan where they would be safe,” he said, adding that the haze had restricted people’s activities.

“My nose and throat feel hot due to inhaling the haze,” Manurung added.

Over the past four days the air on Bengkalis Island mixed with dust from the forest fires, restricting visibility considerably.

Bengkalis resident Budi Prayitno expressed concern that, despite wearing masks, the dust and haze interfered with residents’ breathing.

“We are used to the annual haze but not the dust that has only occurred this year,” he said.

According to Budi, the haze has also worried local fishermen.

“Due to limited visibility accidents are more likely. Some of the fishermen are desperate to set out to sea to make money, but only dare to do so in the day time because they are afraid they will get lost in the haze when they return home in the evening,” he said.

Marjoko Santoso Dumai Health Agency head reminded residents to keep wearing masks — at least 10 thousand had been distributed by his agency — during outdoor activities.

The government set a haze alert status in Riau and a mass forest fire prevention drive as of June 21. Besides conducting water bombing with three helicopters, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is working with the Research and Technology Application Agency (BPPT) to make artificial rain.

After twice scattering eight tons of salt for cloud-seeding, it rained only once for 30 minutes in Bukit Kapur district, Dumai, on Sunday.

“It was quite encouraging because there has been no rain for weeks. Theoretically cloud-seeding in one place triggers rain in other areas,” said BPPT Artificial Rain Technical Unit head F. Heru Widodo, adding the level of success depended on the condition of the clouds.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the government was intensifying efforts to extinguish forest fires in Riau.

“As we have not yet achieved our target — one week — to put out the forest fires, I decided to step up efforts to overcome the issue. Efforts to put out fires by regional command assisted by the central government are now directly coordinated by the head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency [BNPB]. Regional elements will of course remain,” the President told a press conference on Monday as quoted by Antara.

He said he had ordered the mobilization of existing force and budget. Reserve funds would be used for that purpose with high accountability. “In 24 hours the BNPB with the military and police will carry out this task,” the President said.

Previously, preliminary investigations singled out eight plantation companies owned by Malaysian investors as the source of forest fires in Riau.

On Monday, Riau Police reportedly arrested two suspects, identified as S and HP, for allegedly burning hectares of land in Bengkalis and Rokan Hilir.

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BerichtOnderwerp: Haze to Clear in a Week as Heavy Rains Fall on Indonesia: Official    Smoking gun in Malaysian hands Icon_minitimewo 26 jun 2013 - 21:07

The Jakarta Globe,  June 26, 2013.

The fires raging in Riau began to subside on Wednesday after heavy rains fell on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, aiding fire fighters and promising an end to the worst levels of haze recorded in more than a decade, an official said.

The number of fires detected in Riau fell from 264 to 54 on Wednesday as disaster response agencies continued to seed the clouds above Sumatra in an effort to create artificial rain, said Heru Widodo, a researcher with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT). The fires, which started on palm oil and pulp plantations, have burned in Riau for more than a week, blanketing neighboring Singapore and Malaysia in unhealthy levels of smog and igniting a diplomatic dustup over who was to blame.

Disaster response crews and the Indonesian Military (TNI) have been flying cloud-seeding missions over Sumatra every day since Saturday while thousands of fire fighters battled the blaze on the ground, Heru said. After several unsuccessful days of drizzle, heavy rains began to fall on the affected areas of Pekanbaru, Bengkalis and Rokan on Tuesday.

“We also expect heavy rain today and even heavier rains tomorrow,” Heru said. “If rain continus to fall every day we can expect the situation to return to normal in a week.”

The news came as a report said the crisis had claimed its first victim with the death of an asthmatic woman in southern Malaysia, which has been badly affected.

The smog from slash-and-burn agricultural fires on Sumatra island pushed haze levels to a record high in Singapore last week, shrouding residential buildings and downtown skyscrapers.

Favorable winds have since cleared the air over the city-state but southern Malaysia remains choked by smoke.

Indonesian officials said on Wednesday that the end was in sight.

“The rain has definitely helped our efforts,” national disaster agency official Agus Wibowo told AFP from Riau. “With the improving weather on our side, we are taking the opportunity to quickly fight the blazes on land.”

The fires have been hard to put out as they are burning under the surface of carbon-rich peat, meaning hoses need to be pushed into the ground to douse the flames.

Conditions had improved dramatically in the badly-hit city of Dumai, in Riau, on Wednesday after a storm broke at dawn, according to an AFP reporter.

“We were so hoping for rainwater because our water supply for bathing and washing clothes had run out,” said Lisa Rahmawati, a 25-year-old secretary.

In Malaysia, pollution has spiked to hazardous levels in some places in recent days, with the south seeing its worst air quality in 16 years last weekend.

The smog had eased Wednesday but continued to hang over some areas including the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The Sun newspaper said Li Cai Ling, a resident of the southern town of Muar — which saw intense air pollution at the weekend — died on Sunday with a medical report blaming the polluted air.

The situation has also forced newly-promoted English Premier League side Cardiff City to cancel a Malaysia visit that was set to begin this week.

The club said in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday that it has abandoned the scheduled week-long trip to Malaysia — home of its billionaire owner Vincent Tan — “due to the current poor air quality in the region.”

Haze is an annual problem during drier summer months, when westerly monsoon winds blow smoke from forest fires and slash-and-burn land-clearing on the huge island of Sumatra, which lies across the Malacca Strait.

But this summer’s recurrence has been the worst in years.

Malaysia’s environment minister travelled to Indonesia on Wednesday morning to meet his counterpart in the hopes of resolving the problem, which earlier sparked a testy exchange between Indonesia and Singapore.

In 1997-1998, a severe bout of haze cost Southeast Asia an estimated $9 billion from disruptions to air travel and other business activities.

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