Green groups protest against slow haze mitigation

EoF News / 11 March 2014

EoF News (PEKANBARU) - A number of environmental communities and organizations participated in ‘Melawan Asap’ (Fighting against Smoke) action and made speech along their protest in the front of Zapin Monument and Riau Governor Office, Pekanbaru, on Monday (10/3). On this seventeenth ‘anniversary’ of Riau fires and smog disaster, they demanded immediate and serious handling from the central government and the provincial government of Riau.

This protest embodied in what they call the ‘Supersemar’ stands for ‘Surat Perintah Sepuluh Maret’ (March 10th’ Warrant) 2014 in which reads that “On 10 March 2014, date closed to then gathered in Pekanbaru Zapin Monument”.

During the action, Field Coordinator Heri Budiman delivered his insistence and demands to the central and provincial government to immediately and seriously mitigate the disaster. “We urge both central and provincial government of Riau to handle this painful catastrophe. " Heri said as quoted on

Furthermore, government’s remaining silent, no solution nor precaution, eventually generates assumption of deliberated negligence over the issue. The same thing agreed by the Executive Director of WALHI Riau, Rico Kurniawan that told that weak law enforcement is one proof of the negligence.

"Since 2003, there’s only one company prosecuted, PT Adei Plantation which was tried in Pelalawan State Court and sentenced to four years. But after that, there’s no more follow up of the law enforcement over other institutional perpetrators,” he said.

WALHI’s data reveals that most forest and land fires occurred in seven districts with large swamp areas and many of it are located inside the concessions of pulp and palm oil companies. Hence, he is certain that the license holder companies were involved in this repeating disaster. “So today we fight, no longer silence toward the recurring situation with no concrete solution from the government,” Riko to

Eyes on the Forest analyzed based on NASA Modis Fires, that in February 2014 there were 6937 hotspots detected totally in Riau. By industrial timber plantation (HTI) concessions, APP group had 1354, APRIL 891 hotspots. Palm oil plantation had 1370 hotspots.

This man-made catastrophe has disadvantaged society in many aspects. The Health Services recorded 44,456 cases due to smog. Since last week, the air quality of Pekanbaru has been in its dangerous level and the visibility is below 70 meters. Schools have been closed for weeks. Most citizens put on mask in their daily activities, especially for outdoor activities. Hundreds of flights from and to Pekanbaru were delayed and canceled in the last two weeks.

Not only environmental activists filed a protest, but also civil society. Ikhsan Wafdullah, a fifth grader of SD 025 Rumbai, Pekanbaru, Riau sent a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), Monday, 10 March 2014. In his letter, Ikhsan expressed his fear over the repeated disaster, from his concern on the environmental damage and his and his friends’ future if schools are always closed due to haze. His father and brother has been infected with respiratory infection and are afraid if more family members will get infected as well, reported.

Meanwhile, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) in a limited cabineet meeting at the presidential office yesterday (10/3) stated that there are two main factors that cause forest and land fires in Riau, namely bad weather and omission, whether it’s deliberated omission by local people, companies or a combination of both.

President instructed that the perpetrators should be given strict sentences. A number of people have been investigated. He also commanded to speed up the legal process so that there will be a deterrent effect for the perpetrators and will no longer carelessly and intentionally set fires. “A number of people are investigated, my instruction is to be quick. If the trials accelerate, people will know that the perpetrators are punished. If keep being slow, I am afraid that they (officials) likely forget about it, so that it forms an opinion by the people,” as quoted on