World November 5, 2015 | 12:28 pm

Greenpeace exposes recently burnt Indonesian forest replaced with palm oil

Jakarta.- New photosand video released today by Greenpeace Southeast Asia show freshly planted palmoil saplings on deforested peatland where several fires have recently brokenout at the edges of an orangutan sanctuary. Greenpeace has called on theIndonesian government to ensure that no one profits from the forest destructioncaused by the haze crisis by requiring all forest and peatlands that have beenburnt in the fires to be restored.

The best availablemaps, now several years old, do not indicate any oil palm concession has beengranted in the area investigated by Greenpeace Southeast Asia. The governmentrefuses to release newer maps for analysis, while the anticorruption commissionlast month reported that unreported forest clearing cost up to US$9 billionover the past decade in lost timber royalties. Last week, a suspicious firedestroyed paper-based records at the Central Kalimantan government’s financedepartment. Police have launched a criminal investigation.

“These fires are one ofthe worst disasters ever to hit this country. It is unthinkable that anyoneshould be allowed to profit from such a crisis. President Jokowi has called forrestoration after the fires – and that must mean restoring forests andpeatlands, not planting with oil palm,” said Annisa Rahmawati, IndonesiaForests campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

As fires raged on theedges of the Nyaru Menteng orangutan sanctuary in Central Kalimantan late lastmonth, National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) Chief of Data andInformation, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho posted a photo to his Twitter account whichquickly went viral. Paired with the caption “After the fire, comes the oilpalm”, the photo showed a landscape of burned tree stumps with oil palm seedlingsfreshly planted in rows.

A spokesperson for theIndonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) responded by claiming theindustry was the victim of a smear campaign, suggesting that the planting wasorchestrated to damage the image of Indonesia’s palm oil industry. However,when Greenpeace visited the area on 27 October local people told investigatorsthat the area had been burnt twice, around a month earlier, apparently as aprelude to planting with oil palm.

“The police are stillinvestigating this area to find out if a crime took place. Yet someone isalready trying to exploit this fire by establishing an oil palm plantation. Whoowns this land? Were these fires started on purpose? We won’t know until thegovernment makes good on its promise to publish concession maps and hold thoseresponsible for these fires to account,” Annisa said.

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