5 firms to be sued over fires
The Indonesian government has said it will prosecute five firms for causing forest fires in East Kalimantan after clearing land by burning.
THE Indonesian government will take five firms to court next month for starting fires in East Kalimantan, where huge tracts of forests have been destroyed.
Environment Minister Juwono Sudarsono, who has lambasted plantation and forestry firms for starting forest fires since his appointment last month, said that the five would be summoned before the provincial court on May 8.
The Republika daily yesterday quoted him as saying that the companies, which he declined to name, would be accused of clearing land by fire, which later spread to nearby forest areas.
The trial would be the first hardline action the government has taken against companies for clearing land by burning – a practice banned by President Suharto in August last year following the thick smoke and haze that enveloped parts of the country and the region.
Under environmental laws introduced last year, those convicted face up to 15 years’ jail and a maximum 250 million rupiah (S$61,000) fine.
The new laws also allow the government to seize the assets or close down the activities of those found guilty of damaging the environment.
The Forestry Ministry said in October last year that 180 companies in the forestry and plantation sectors could have their business permits revoked for clearing land by fire in Kalimantan.
It said there was enough evidence to bring 23 of these firms to court for starting the fires.
So far, 395,000ha of forest land in East Kalimantan have been destroyed by the fires.
The Environmental Impact and Management Agency in the province said the financial damage so far was at least US$912 million (S$1.4 billion).
Prof Sudarsono said in the report that the government had done “as much as is humanly possible” to fight the fires.
TOUGH : The new laws
* UNDER Indonesian environmental laws introduced last year, those convicted of clearing land by burning face up to 15 years’ jail and a maximum fine of 250 million rupiah (S$61,000).
* The new laws also allow the government to seize the assets or close down the activities of those found guilty of damaging the environment.