Jakarta, 29 August – Fires have broken out inside palm oil concessions in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, belonging to suppliers to some of the biggest household brands in the world, new documentation from Greenpeace Indonesia shows. This includes members of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil, the industry’s sustainability certification body.
There has been a huge increase in the number of fire hotspots across Indonesia in 2018. As many as 9,819 fire hotspots have been identified this year so far, nearly three times the number identified in all of 2017 (3,488).
“People in Indonesia are sick and tired. The Indonesian government promised to crack down on rogue companies but the palm oil industry still isn’t listening. It’s early days yet and we hope the fires don’t get worse, but the haze is already shutting down schools and putting people’s lives at risk,” said Annisa Rahmawati, Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
The number of fire hotspots has been growing throughout August, with Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) warning that the increasingly dry weather could see fires increase through September.
One of the concessions, PT Sumatera Unggul Makmur (PT SUM),has burned every year since 2013. It belongs to Gama, a palm oil company closely connected to the world’s largest palm oil trader, Wilmar. Fire hotspots have also been recorded in concessions belonging to Bumitama and First Resources. All three producers have been supplying palm oil to major brands, including Mondelez, Nestlé and Unilever, via Wilmar and other palm oil traders.
On Saturday, President Joko Widodo was found guilty of negligence by a Palangkaraya High Courtin the government’s handling of the deadly 2015 fires. The government is appealing the decision at the Supreme Court.
“Instead of appealing this verdict, the government needs to accept it messed up and fix the problem by bringing the palm oil industry to heel. President Jokowi must take charge of the situation and enforce the law against companies that don’t protect their land from fire,” said Arie Rompas, one of the principal plaintiffs and forest campaign team leader of Greenpeace Indonesia.
Arif Setiawan from Rasau Jaya in West Kalimantan has been impacted by the fires every year since 2008, which is why he joined Greenpeace Indonesia’s Forest Fire Prevention team.
“2015 was the worst forest fires I’ve seen. Visibility was down to less than 10 meters, people had sore throats, sore eyes. Every hospital in Pontianak was full of cases of respiratory tract infections,” said Arif.
“This year is also bad. Out on patrol, the peatlands are dry. When the wind blew we watched the fire engulf land and vegetation. We can smell the smoke as it spreads to Pontianak, it’s been thick in recent weeks, and my hometown is close to the hotspots so it’s even worse there. When it’s this bad children stay at home. The sad thing is people are getting used to living life wearing masks.”
Photo and video
All Confidence level Fire hot spot numbers from LAPAN using MODIS & VIIRS
 Two execs quit palm oil giant Wilmar after Greenpeace deforestation report – Straits Times