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Palm oil companies must accept responsibility for Indonesian fires

Palm oil and pulp and paper companies in Indonesia should accept responsibility for their role in the country's forest fires rather than hide behind zero burn policies or try and imply local communities are to blame, Greenpeace International said on Monday.

Palm oil and pulp and paper companies have rejected accusations they are responsible for fires in or around their concession that have caused air pollution problems in Singapore and Malaysia. But Greenpeace International argues that the current problems are the result of decades of forest destruction in Sumatra.

"Palm oil giants such as Sime Darby and Wilmar International can't just wash their hands of responsibility for these crimes and hide behind their zero burning policies. These types of companies created the conditions for this disaster by draining and clearing peatland," said Bustar Maitar, head of the Indonesia Forest Campaign at Greenpeace International.

When peatland is cleared and drained of water for plantations it becomes prone to fire. Any fire, either deliberate, accidental or from small-scale clearing, can become an environmental disaster. Under Indonesian law, development on peat up to three meters deep is still legal, and also the palm oil industry’s certification system, the RSPO, does not ban all development on peat.

"Palm oil producers like Sime Darby, Wilmar International and IOI can’t guarantee they are not trading this dirty palm oil to the global market. Without strict purchasing policies in place that ensure they do not trade in dirty palm oil, these companies are driving deforestation and the destruction of countless thousands of hectares of peatland," said Bustar.

Greenpeace calls on palm oil producers to urgently extinguish fires in their concessions, immediately stop the drainage and development on peat and natural forests and ensure palm oil in their supply chains is free from forest destruction. The government of Indonesia must also strengthen the moratorium on forest clearance and fully protect all peatland.

Greenpeace International recently released an analysis of NASA hotspot data in Sumatra over 11-21 June revealing hundred hotspots in palm oil concessions that are owned by Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean companies.

by S. C.
25 june 2013, World News > Asia