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Environmentalists go after Indonesia's forest burners

Report accuses conglomerate of being behind destruction of nearly 60,000 hectares of forest

Environmentalists go after Indonesia's forest burners

An aerial view of fires at a palm oil plantation concession of Dongin Prabhawa, a subsidiary of the Korindo Group in Papua. (Photo: Greenpeace Indonesia)

Environmental groups in Indonesia are calling for action to be taken against a conglomerate and its subsidiary for allegedly destroying a huge swath of rainforest in Papua’s Merauke district to pave the way for a palm oil plantation.

Dongin Prabhawa, a subsidiary of the Korindo Group — a joint Indonesian and South Korean venture —  has destroyed 57,000 hectares of rainforest, according to a joint report released by Greenpeace Indonesia and Forensic Architecture.

They based their findings on forest fires captured on NASA satellite imagery between 2011 and 2016. They also analyzed surveys conducted by Greenpeace International campaigners since 2013.

Kiki Taufik, global head of Greenpeace Southeast Asia's Indonesian forests campaign, said the government must act decisively against the Korindo Group.
 “The government must demand accountability from Korindo and other plantation companies for burning forests, damaging the environment and causing a problem to people’s health,” Taufik told UCA News.

“But the problem is that the government is weak and inconsistent in the enforcement of the law.” 

The government is supposed to be cracking down on forest burning in a bid to curb the annual haze problem caused by forest fires started by farmers and plantation owners.   
He said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar can show her commitment to the people and environment by investigating and acting decisively in the Korindo case.

“It is important to uphold justice for the people,” he said.
Sacred Heart Father Ansel Amo, who heads Merauke Archdiocese's Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission, backed the call.

“When forests are burned, the rights of indigenous peoples are ignored,” he told UCA News. “Their rights must be restored so that they are not harmed by big business.”

Father Amo said the company should be held responsible for the ecological loss. He also criticized local authorities for not monitoring the activities of palm oil plantation operators.
“The government has to prevent activities that are detrimental to society and the environment,” he said.
Korindo denied any wrongdoing, saying its activities have taken place after consultations with authorities and local people.
Besides compensation, the company has paid US$14 million for social obligation programs for dozens of families from 10 indigenous groups whose lands are now part of the company’s concession, and it has provided food programs and scholarships, Korindo spokesman Yulian Mohammad Riza said.

Environment Minister Bakar was non-committal, saying the initial forest clearance took place before the present government took office. She did not say whether the company would face action for burning of land that had taken place since the government decided to get tough with those starting fires.

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