Gapki Says Don’t Blame Its Members for Fires

A log lies in a field burnt off by forest fires in Plintingan, Riau Province, Indonesia, on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Indonesia is sending more than 3,000 soldiers, marines and air force officers to fight forest fires in Sumatra that have been blamed for heavy haze over neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. (Bloomberg Photo/Dimas Ardian)

A log lies in a field burnt off by forest fires in Plintingan, Riau Province, Indonesia, on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Indonesia is sending more than 3,000 soldiers, marines and air force officers to fight forest fires in Sumatra that have been blamed for heavy haze over neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. (Bloomberg Photo/Dimas Ardian)

The Indonesian Palm Oil Association believes that its members are not to be blamed for the string of forest fires in Sumatra’s Riau province that attracted international attention.

Joko Supriyono, the secretary general of the group known as Gapki, believes that the government’s information on the various hot spots in the province is inaccurate.

“The government must validate the information by going straight to the location. Even a zinc roof was identified as a hot spot [by satellite imaging],” he said on Tuesday.

“This haze incident cornered the palm industry further. Without the incident we are already under attack,” Joko said, accusing some parties of exploiting the situation to further disrupt Indonesia’s palm oil industry.

Joko claimed that he checked Gapki’s members in Riau and found that most of the wildfires occurred beyond their concession areas.

“There are four of our members suspected of causing fires. Three of them said that the incident was outside their area and one said it was occurred inside a plot owned by a small-holder,” he added.

Gapki’s members, consisting mostly of large plantation firms, would never resort to a slash-and-burn technique for land clearance as they fear being criminalized for their activities, Joko said.

“Furthermore, there have been no expansions of palm oil plantation in the province,” he claimed.

Joko also highlighted that many of the Gapki members joined the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Still, Joko admitted that slash-and-burn was the cheapest method for land clearance and small-holders may be tempted to use it due to lack of knowledge and resources.

“Mechanical land clearance would be too expensive for them,” he added.

Joko also reminded that during the dry season fire can be ignited very easily and spread very quickly.

“A simple cigarette butt could trigger wildfires,” he said.

The government recently identified 10 companies with fires on their land on Friday, including Jakarta-based Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (Smart) and Asia Pacific Resources International (April).

Gapki has 600 large-scale plantation firms that cover 3 million hectares of the total 9 million hectares of palm oil plantations across the country.

  • mauriceg

    Knowing or believing the ease of a conflagration, and knowing how quickly it could turn into a health hazard for neighbouring countries, one wonders why the Indonesian government, in concert with the supposedly concerned (We never set fire to the forest. It was the weather.. or a big boy done it and ran away level), companies. There should have been fire-fighting equipment ready to hand. Aircraft, helicopters. Army. etc
    But no. Because the companies, and the government never gave a damn, and still don’t, but now they are receiving complaints from Singapore and Malaysia. if people die from this who will compensate their families?
    SBY pretends to care, to apparently have ‘green’ credentials. Don’t be fooled.
    Why don’t we have a telly documentary on Indonesia’ readiness to fight these annual fires, if they are so readily ignited. After all, that’s what a concerned, civilised nation would have at its disposal to protect itself and other countries from this. Oops, I forgot.

    I won’t hold my breath on that one.

  • Clearheaded

    Well the World Resources Institute begs to differ. Their map shows 800 hotspots in former peat forests and active concessions. The tin roof excuse is so out of date it is no wonder these people do not know what is going on. People have been using remote sensing imagery for decades and the software and analysts are well beyond the stage of tin roofs being mistaken for a hot spot.

    Always the same deny deny deny and then blame someone else. No sense of responsibility or of culpability. It does not matter where the companies come from or which organizations they are members of the fires are fires and in Indonesia and the government agencies turning a blind eye to this practice for decades is the problem. Even allowing farmers and smallholders to set fires. It is still the Indonesian government’s responsibility for not educating the people and for not preventing the fires from happening. You do not start 800 hot spots with cigarettes.

    How do these people get and keep their jobs?

    Here’s the latest map.

    • H. Tobing

      Lightening storms that is how the fire started.

    • MadWorld

      Low level fires in rainforest can happened mostly only in dry season. The natural fires generally burn dry leaves littering the ground, the flames only reach a few inches in height (1inch+/_ 2,54cm) and have virtually no impact on tall trees.
      Under “normal” rainfall and “normal” humidity condition virgin forest serve as a sort humid barrier which prevents the spread of agricultural fires, excepting during El Nino years in the 90s, when humidity was 45>55% lower then usual.
      Looking at many pictures in JG, I could not see what I should presumed as a virgin forest, looks like a war zone.It seems that the Indonesian fires have no season. Ad-hoc fires linked to ad-hoc seasons.

  • sheldon

    Of course. Just blame someone else. This is Indonesia

  • RubbishB

    No expansion, but companies still need to cut down the old palm trees, no?

  • Clearheaded

    OK Alan If you had read my comment I stated that they are hotspots noted by WRI. Not fires, but for further evidence of the number of fires here’s a link

    This is clear remotely sensed imagery from June 19th. that nobody can deny or claim to be hot spots that are not fires. These are not started by cigarettes nor are they tin roofs.

    Whether they are beyond “Historic Norms” or not the fact remains that the government is allowing these fires annually. You may also note I mentioned smallholders and farmers included. You missed the point of my post. The Government has done nothing to prevent the fires after so very many years of the same issue. All they do is deny, pass the blame and come up with some very childish statements.

    This has been going on for decades and there is no use denying it. Nothing has been done to educate anyone on the effects of these fires, nor do they prepare in advance to handle them when they get out of control despite previous experience.

    So Alan I have a feeling that it is you that may be incorrect in your posting and the assumption you make on what I stated.

    • AlanBruceDavies

      It’s not about the number of fires. It’s about how they were started. (and thanks for the link).

  • Robert Hii

    Interesting to note that GAPKI which pullled out of the RSPO is now using some of its members participation in RSPO as a guarantee that they would not burn to clear forests.

    Finger pointing and blame shifting does not give any credibility to Indonesian palm oil’s claims to be sustainable. Only direct action on the ground will and I look forward to seeing their sustainability standards when it comes available.

    • H. Tobing

      Next year is an election year, all available funds are needed for that, to vote in the bestest govt. that money can buy, not for some fire fighting that the rain will take care of.

  • H. Tobing

    That was the name of that big lightening storm that whipped through Sumatra wasn’t it.

  • AlanBruceDavies

    I haven’t seen those claims. I agree they are laughable. There are a number of causes, of course, but the primary one is locals starting fires to clear land. It is the dry season too, and that can’t be dismissed out of hand. It is a key factor in accidental fires and the unplanned spreading of deliberate ones.

  • AlanBruceDavies

    I tried to delete that comment, but Discus kept it in and turned my id to Guest. As it happens, I’m retired.

    • Duncan

      so you have not even got the convictions of your own anger Alan

  • izzi

    GREED GREED GREED they should be in jail for destroying forests and killing wildlife