Jokowi and the Haze: Symbolic removal of acacia (video), Indonesia's legal regularisation push, Companies have not paid fines / compensation

Editor's note: In view of the tragedy of the Sumatra-Kalimantan fire haze-smoke crisis of 2015 we have collected our thoughts on this complex issue by focusing tightly on the knotty issues at origin (the current sustainability model has yet to provide aggregate outcomes) : poverty and development policy, extension services, limited applied knowledge on peat development and management methods, and the role of various supply-chains in the fire-haze zones. Farmer issues focus:

14 Feb 2017:  Symbolic removal of acacia marks new era of peat related law enforcement by Foresthints - video

Symbolic removal of acacia marks new era of peat related law enforcement by Foresthints News Published on 13 Feb 2017 -- In a symbolic gesture, some of this newly-replanted acacia was indeed removed by the top officials of Indonesian MoEF at two locations in a pulpwood concession belonging to APP subsidiary, PT BAP, located in OKI regency - one of two peat restoration priority regencies situated in the province of South Sumatra (February 9, 2017).


Forest Hints News youtube:
  • Second video reemphasizes untrue claims unhelpful in preventing peat fires Pulang Pisau by Foresthints News
  • Video reveals threat of peat fires in 2017 - Pulang Pisau (Indonesian Borneo) by Foresthints News

10 Feb 2017: Indonesia wins cases against companies but none have paid fines / compensation

Indonesia - Government wins in forest fire case by Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post Jakarta | Thu, February 9, 2017 -- In the fight against deforestation and forest fires, the Environment and Forestry Ministry is on a winning streak, with the courts ruling in favor of the government in cases against companies. Still, the enforcing of penalties remains weak.... In its latest victory, the South Jakarta District Court found palm oil company PT Waringin Agro Jaya (WAJ) guilty on Tuesday of illegally starting a forest fire to clear land in Ogan Komering Ilir, South Sumatra. The court ordered the company to pay Rp 466.5 billion (US$35 million), Rp 173.5 billion of which will serve as compensation for the burning of 1,626 hectares of land in its land concession and another Rp 293 billion to cover the rehabilitation cost for the burned land. The fine was lower than the ministry’s demand of Rp 754 billion.... However, none of the companies have paid the fines or compensation. The ministry’s law enforcement director general, Rasio Ridho Sani, acknowledged that it was a challenge for the ministry to enforce verdicts. It takes time for verdicts to be enforced because the ministry has to wait for the official record of the verdict to be available, which can take months to more than a year. Moreover, there is no standard operating procedure for the enforcement of forest-related rulings. The ministry is pushing for the Supreme Court to issue a regulation on its judges to help with the enforcement of penalties....

7 Feb 2017: Indonesia's legal regularisation push - draft bill, 1.7 million hectares of smallholders, Eyes on the Forest on 1.6 million hectares converted and 26 companies using the wrong permits

NGOs Refuse Draft Bill on Palm Oil | National | Tempo.Co, 06 February, 2017 -- “The existence of the Draft Bill regarding palm oil could worsen the regulation since the draft bill legalizes violating acts in peat areas,” said the Advocacy Deputy Director of ELSAM, Andi Muttaqien, on Sunday, February 5, 2017. According to Andi, the Bill legalizes the palm oil plantation that is currently considered illegal. It is written in article 23 of the Draft Bill. The article regulates the

rights of cultivating palm oil on a land after acquiring a business permit. The plot of land that is referred to is mineral land and/or peatland.

1.7 million ha of farms on forest area legalised - news snippet -- Indonesia: Agriculture ministry filed a discharge status of the 1.7 million hectares of oil palm plantations owned by farmers. Because the land is indicated to be in the forest area. After discharge, farmers can manage land certification and legality. That way, farmers could then fulfill its obligations, including paying taxes. Moreover, the government has imposed a tax amnesty policy dapata used by farmers

NGOs Call Out 26 Palm Oil Companies for Illegal Operations in Riau - Jakarta. A number of palm oil plantations in Riau province have allegedly received under the table permits, according to a report by a coalition of environmental NGOs dubbed the Eyes of the Earth, or EoF. By : Ratri M. Siniwi | on 6:30 PM December 10, 2016 -- Earlier in 2014, the Forestry Ministry had converted 1.6 million hectares of forest areas into non-forest areas under a ministerial decree, but 26 companies have been found to be operating under the wrong type of license within the converted area as they are missing cultivation permits (HGU) and forest-estate release permits.....“We urge the Corruption Eradication Commission [KPK] to investigate the land swap scandals of a forest area covering more than 1.6 million hectares,” Woro Supartinah, coordinator for Jikalahari NGO which is a member of EoF, said in a statement on Thursday (08/12).According to EoF’s report, the majority of palm oil plantations within the converted area are operating sans proper permits and licenses and are not included in the Forest-Estate Release Progress Data 201, based on the book of forestry spatial data 2015..... WALHI, or Friends of the Earth Indonesia, told the Jakarta Globe that palm oil estates which operate without proper licenses or permits are corrupt and a form of tax evasion. “These plantations are not paying taxes, and do not have a tax identification number [NPWP]. We could lose up about Rp 170 trillion [$12.7 billion] in state losses,” Riko Kurniawan, WALHI executive director said on Friday....

Press Release 09 Dec 2016 Maraknya kebun sawit ilegal jadi pintu masuk pemberantasan korupsi yang tuntas di Riau  

16 Dec 2016: NGO reactions to Indonesia's new peatland regulations - 30% protection is not good enough, APRIL-RGE in spotlight; Malaysian state says no palm in swampy areas for fear of drying up land

Green groups raise red flags over Jokowi’s widely acclaimed haze law 9 December 2016

Dianggap tak Transparan, Greenpeace Putus Kontrak APRIL dan RGE  14 December 2016

Negeri Sembilan ‘No oil palm on swampy land’ 8 December 2016 -- Negri Sembilan, a major palm oil producing state, will no longer allow the palm to be grown in swampy areas and abandoned padi fields to prevent the state from “drying up”....

7 Dec 2016: Indonesia expands protection for peatland, Government Taskforce To Legalise HCV Guidelines, Destruction of the Amazon is speeding up 

Press release: - Indonesia's Peat Moratorium could benefit people, welfare and climate News story | Published: 2016-12-05  --

Govt Imposes Moratorium on Land Clearing of Peatland  07 DECEMBER, 2016 | 07:10 WIB

Indonesia just made a huge move to protect the climate By Chelsea Harvey December 6 at 4:50 PM

Indonesia expands protection for peatland  DEC 7, 2016 -- New law banning cultivation also covers concession land previously licensed to firms

For peat’s sake. Despite tough talk, Indonesia’s government is struggling to stem deforestation, But the weather is helping a little Nov 26th 2016 | HENDA, BORNEO -- a familiar story across Indonesia, where decentralisation has saddled local governments with more responsibility than they can handle. Most are simply unable to stop powerful interests bent on deforestation. Many do not want to: the financial and political benefits from allowing business to proceed as usual often exceed those from following national policy decided thousands of miles away in Jakarta. Sometimes the incentives are terrifyingly blunt: activists tell tales of attempts to enforce forestry laws being met by men with machine-guns.... Added to a lack of capacity is a woolly governmental structure that makes it difficult to know just where the buck stops, and easy for officials to pass it. WALHI, an environmental pressure group, has filed a lawsuit over deforestation in Central Kalimantan. Among the defendants are the provincial governor and parliament, as well as Jokowi and the national ministries of health, environment and agriculture—all of which have some role in forest policy. Mr Yudhoyono’s moratorium came from the forestry ministry (now merged with the environment ministry), but the agriculture ministry handles licensing for palm-oil concessions. Such divisions are replicated at the local level, and the various entities rarely co-ordinate with each other....

InPOP Update December 2016 - Government Taskforce To Legalise HCV Guidelines In Indonesia -- A landmark process between Ministries — with input from the private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders — began in November to refine High Conservation Value (HCV) related regulations in Indonesia.... Once the HCV guidelines are officially recognized by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry under KEE, the taskforce will shift focus for them to be considered and adopted at the highest level of Indonesian law. This will require a constitutional revision in parliament know as an Undang Undang.

Destruction of the Amazon is speeding up — just when the planet can least afford it By Chris Mooney December 2, 2016 -- This means that since 2012, when deforestation hit a historic low after many years at high rates, it is now bouncing back again — and doing so at a time when researchers say protecting tropical forests, and allowing them to regrow, is one of the most effective short-term ways of fighting climate change. “This is a big deal,” said Daniel Nepstad, an Amazon expert and senior scientist at the Earth Innovation Institute. “It is the highest deforestation number since 2008. Compared to the lowest deforestation number, in 2012, it means an extra 150 million tons of CO2 went up into the air through forest destruction.”...

29 Sep 2016: Strengthening ISPO - InPOP's National Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil, strict liability for fires and MOEF and BRG halt APRIL Group’s (PT RAPP unit) development

InPOP UPDATE September 2016 -- InPOP's National Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil.... The first draft of the National Action Plan will be presented to stakeholders next month and released for public consultation in the coming weeks..... Suggestions for the National Action Plan, related to strengthening ISPO, include: prioritising the resolution of disputed land legality status for smallholders and companies, centralising licensing and permit procedures, socialising ISPO and its principles on sustainability in schools and community groups, preparing a trade negotiation strategy to gain international recognition of ISPO and increasing the capacity of the ISPO secretariat. Specific laws and regulations related to the palm oil standard will be reviewed by a task-force headed by the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs and open to multi-stakeholder input. 

Strict liability for fires? 

Editor's note: Indonesia Environment and Forestry Ministry (MOEF) is set to file civil lawsuits after Riau police dropped several cases. In four lawsuits, the concept of strict liability will be used in two cases. Peat and plantations policies has been publicly contested in Indonesia. Operations specialists point out that better implementation is needed. Also, Indonesian laws and regulations may be disjointed, for example, a concessionaire prosecuted under criminal and civil suits (for fire on peat) was ordered to hand over the land, but the agency involved had not prepared this mechanism.

More firms to be on lawsuit list by Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post Jakarta | Sat, August 13 2016 Companies can be held responsible for fires in their concessions, even if there is no proof that the fires were caused by them or their negligence. Strict liability was used by judges in their verdict against PT National Sago Prima (a subsidiary of PT Sampoerna Agro), ordered to pay a record fine of Rp 1.07 trillion (US$81 million); the government used the unlawful misconduct concept, accusing the company of violating Forestry Ministerial Regulation No. 12/2009, which states that concession holders are responsible for fires on their concessions.... A fire expert from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture reported that PT NSP was among 17 companies audited by the now defunct presidential working unit for the supervision and management of development (UKP4) in 2014. The audit found that none of the companies had passed the compliance test against Indonesian environmental regulations.  Most of them lacked adequate facilities and the infrastructure needed to prevent forest fires.

BRG/Peat Restoration Agency stops development 

Editor's note: MOEF and BRG halt APRIL Group’s (PT RAPP unit) development. basin development in Meranti, Riau on concern that it will drain the area, which is identified as peatland. RAPP must cease its activities temporarily until the hydrological mapping of the area is complete in about three months time.

RAPP vows to resolve Pulau Padang Peatland issue 12 Sep 2016

21 Sep 2016: Indonesia fatwa against forest burning to reinforce laws against it, study estimates 100,000 premature deaths from Indonesia fire-haze, financing deforestation 

FORESTS & FINANCE - The banks and investors exposed to deforestation risks in Southeast Asia - 

See more at:                         

Forest-burning is a sin, says Indonesian fatwa, 14 September 2016 -- Government officials said they hoped the moral impact of the fatwa would help reinforce laws against it.

Study Estimates 100,000 Premature Deaths From Indonesia Haze THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (STEPHEN WRIGHT)  September 19, 2016 — The study finds there is a high statistical probability that premature deaths ranged between 26,300 and 174,300. Its main estimate of 100,300 deaths is the average of those two figures. It predicts 91,600 deaths in Indonesia, another 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore. The researchers involved in the study say the model they developed can be combined with satellite observations to analyze the haze in close to real time. ....... ....

Study claiming 6,500 deaths in Malaysia due to haze refuted BY NICHOLAS CHENG 19 September 2016 -- Malaysia has refuted a Harvard and Columbia University study, claiming that the 2015 South-East Asian haze had caused 6,500 deaths in the country.   The study, which is expected to be published in the Environmental Research Letters (ERL) journal, also claims that there have been 100,300 premature deaths in the region from the haze; 91,600 in Indonesia and 2,200 in Singapore.  ... Deputy Health director-general Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran was sceptical of the findings of the study.  “No such thing!” he said when contacted Monday about the paper.  “We had no deaths last year directly related to the haze,” he added. The numbers vastly contradict the official count, which only reported 19 deaths in Indonesia and none in Malaysia and Singapore. ...

5 Sept 2016: Environment Minister Condemns Hostage Situation Involving Palm Oil Company, WALHI to File New Police Reports Against Riau Forest Burners

Indonesia environment team threatened with death investigating haze Sep 5, 2016 -- By Bernadette Christina Munthe | JAKARTA -- Dozens of Indonesian men, suspected of being hired by an oil palm plantation company, threatened to kill environmental investigators checking on fires on Sumatra island, the environment ministry said. The incident illustrates the difficulties Indonesia faces tackling the illegal burning of vegetation to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations that causes clouds of smoke every dry season, which at times blanket the region, raising fears for public health and air travel.... The ministry said a group of up to 100 men detained seven investigators for about 12 hours on the weekend and threatened to burn them alive and dump their bodies in a river at an oil palm plantation in Rokan Hulu, Riau province..... The team was following up on satellite images showing "hot spots", or suspected fires, in a concession of PT Andika Permata Sawit Lestari (APSL) oil palm plantation company. There were "strong indications" the mob was deployed by the company, the ministry said in a statement. "With this incident, the investigation of PT APSL will become our top priority," Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya said in the statement, referring to both suspected forest encroachment by the company and the detention of the team. "The environment ministry will investigate this and take strict action in accordance with the law," she said....A company official, contacted by Reuters on Monday, declined to comment.... 

Environment Minister Condemns Hostage Situation Involving Palm Oil Company By : Edo Karensa | September 04, 2016

Environmental Group to File New Police Reports Against Riau Forest Burners By : Alin Almanar | September 03, 2016

60% of forest fires in Kalimantan, Sumatra not on concession land by Francis Chan | The Straits Times/ANN | Jakarta  August 30 2016 -- Satellites detected almost 700 fires across Kalimantan and Sumatra last week, as the thick haze from land burning on the two Indonesian islands began blanketing the skies over Malaysia and Singapore.... However, the data from Global Forest Watch (GFW) also found that 60 percent of the fires were spotted outside concession areas that were not managed by plantation firms. GFW, an initiative of American think-tank World Resources Institute, produces detailed maps and analyses of forest fires around the world.... However, six plantation firms were singled out in the GFW analysis, showing "fire alerts", which Sutopo said represented actual fires, in eight concession areas managed by the companies. They include pulpwood firms Sumatera Riang Lestari (23 fires), Arara Abadi ( 15 ), Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper ( 12 ), Rimba Mutiara Permai (five) and Seraya Sumber Lestari (four), as well as palm oil company Karya Makmur (two).... Forest fires, mainly in Kalimantan and Sumatra, raged for more than three months towards the end of last year. The thick smoke caused more than half a million Indonesians to suffer from respiratory illnesses. At least 19 died.... However, the 697 fires recorded in Kalimantan and Sumatra from Aug 21 to Sunday marked a vast improvement when compared with the 5,724 fires detected over a similar eight-day period last year.....

Malaysia challenges the world over palm oil on peatland by Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post -- Malaysia is a “lone ranger” in Southeast Asia as it fights more or less solo against the majority of environmentalists’ views that palm oil trees should not be planted on tropical peatland as it is believed to severely affect the local environment and exacerbate global warming. Malaysia, the second biggest palm oil producer after Indonesia, is a home to 2.43 million hectares of peatland, 27.5 percent of which has been developed into palm oil plantation, while Indonesia with production of 23 million tons last year is a home to 16 million hectares of peatland with 1.6 million hectares of it developed.... Unlike Indonesia which prefers to follow the mainstream views of the environmentalists and has decided to launch a moratorium on new development on peatland since 2011, Malaysia fully supports its palm oil industry who have tried to prove that peatland cannot be classified as “sacred land”.... The Malaysian government established the Tropical Peat Research Laboratory (TPRL) in Serawak state to facilitate its scientists to conduct research on the economic and environmental aspects of peatland development. They claimed that they have managed to eradicate the negative impacts of peatland exploitation. However, their arguments were nearly unheard as they were inundated by the mainstream opinion of the environmentalists....

10 August 2016: WWF SVP on inability/unwillingness of local and national authorities

IPOP’s demise undercuts palm oil industry progress [commentary] 8 August 2016 / Dave McLaughlin -- Dave McLaughlin is the World Wildlife Fund’s acting senior vice president for sustainable food. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.-- This is the second in a series of commentaries about the disbandment of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP). Read the first one here. Regardless of how conservationists and businesses feel about the effectiveness of the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), its recent demise illustrates how government imposes a serious obstacle to meaningful change in the palm oil industry: the inability and in some cases, unwillingness, of local and national authorities to protect forests, workers, and communities. ....

8 August 2016: Riau focus - strategies post-haze

15 fire-linked firms escape prosecution in Indonesia’s Riau 28 July 2016 / Mongabay Haze Beat Environmental advocates decried the police decision to close cases against the companies, which Jakarta had listed in connection with last year’s haze crisis.

New initiative to further creation of a single map in Indonesia’s Riau 27 July 2016 / The World Resources Institute’s Riau One Map campaign aims to advance a government initiative in the country’s top palm oil-producing province.

Indonesia declares national park in top palm oil-producing province 27 July 2016 / Zamrud National Park encompasses an area inhabited by a variety of birds, fish and mammals in Riau on the island of Sumatra.

27 July 2016: Some cases are dropped, Indonesia focus on smallholder, Riau's new national park, policy tussle over moratorium with corporate sector, Singapore view post-IPOP

Cara BPDP Jaga Produksi Sawit Saat Moratorium by Pebrianto Eko Wicaksono 21 Jul 2016

Note: Pak Bayu says the moratorium decision of President Jokowi (if it comes into regulation) will be respected. Bayu, notes there are many estates that level of production is only one ton per hectare against a potential fo seven tons, blaming bad planting materials (seeds) in large part. Also, trees over 30 years old must be replanted. Bayu said for Jan-June 2016 the oil fund has raised to Rp 5.6 trillion, against this year's target of Rp 11 trillion. The realized oil fund levy for 1H2016 was lower than 2H2016's (July to December 2015) Rp 6.9 trillion likely because of oil exports have dropped slightly.

Riau Police drops probe into 11 firms linked to forest fires by Rizal Harahap | The Jakarta Post | Pekanbaru  July 20 2016 -- Riau Police reportedly have dropped investigations into 11 companies allegedly involved in forest fires in 2015, underlining the poor law enforcement of last year’s catastrophe that claimed five lives. The 11 companies were among 18 accused of having been involved in the fires. While two other companies have seen their cases brought to court, six other companies are still being investigated. Following the termination of the 11 investigations, the Riau Forest Rescue Network (Jikalahari) environmental group has called for the dismissal of the Riau Police chief.

Indonesia suspends land-clearing licences of 27 firms over forest fires July 11, 2016  By Samhati Bhattacharjya -- Indonesia government has suspended land-clearing licences of 27 companies, which were found responsible for the land and forest fires, leading to the haze crisis last year. The Environment and Forest Ministry officials said that the decision was taken after the companies failed to prevent fires in their concession lands, which resulted in one of the worst environmental crises for South-east Asia in recent history. Apart from the sanctions, the ministry has also filed civil law suits against five oil palm companies allegedly responsible for some of last year's fires.... 

Dirjen Kementan: moratorium sawit harus dibarengi peremajaan tanaman 26 Juli 2016 -- Menurut dia, luas lahan yang dimiliki pengusaha sudah cukup besar karena selama ini terus ekspansi, sementara milik BUMN justru memprihatinkan karena sampai sekarang masih stagnan produksinya. Sedangkan kebun kelapa sawit rakyat harus ditingkatkan produktivitasnya.. Kondisi petani kelapa sawit, lanjutnya, kalau dibandingkan dengan petani kelapa sawit Malaysia yang bergabung dalam Felda masih jauh sehingga harus diperjuangkan lagi.

Note: Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture: oil moratorium should be coupled to replanting. Corporate areas are big enough and the conditio nof farmers an be improved (comparing to Malaysia's Felda).

Riau’s Zamrud forest named newest national park by Haeril Halim and Rizal Harahap   July 23 2016 -- The government on Friday celebrated World Environment Day (WED) by officially opening Zamrud National Park in Siak regency, Riau. The park aims to conserve the remaining forest and ecosystem against industry in the region, home to nearly 3 million hectares of palm oil and timber plantations for pulp and paper companies. The decision of the Environment and Forestry Ministry to upgrade the status of the 31,000-ha peatland forest, which has two lakes inhabited by endangered species such as gold arowanas, from a wildlife reservation to a national park aims to ensure it is not converted for industrial use in the future....

Indonesia Moratorium on New Palm Planting to Include Existing Plantations By : Bernadette Christina Munthe | July 19, 2016 -- The moratorium will cover around 3.5 million hectares, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry, starting with 950,000 hectares that are being proposed by plantation companies for expansions.  Indonesia, the world's top producer of palm oil, currently has about 11.4 million hectares devoted to palm plantations.  Plantation areas that not used according to what is stipulated on their concession permits, and those indicated to have been transferred to new owners may be subjected to the moratorium, San Afri Awang, director general of forestry spatial planning at Environment Ministry told reporters.  "Existing palm plantation concessions which have productive forested areas will also be subjected to the moratorium," Awang said.....Indonesia's palm association said the move is inconsistent with a strong commitment to investors and introduces uncertainty into the regulations governing plantations. "If plantations that already have a decree to clear forested areas are included in the moratorium, it shows that legal certainty in Indonesia is not good, and this is a bad image," Eddy Martono, an executive at Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI), told Reuters on Tuesday (19/07).... In April, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the areas already issued to palm oil growers could be more than twice as productive "provided they use the right seeds".  Gamal Nasir, director general at Agriculture Ministry told Reuters on Tuesday that no decision has been made yet on including forested areas inside palm concessions in the moratorium plan..... 

Post-IPOP: How Indonesia can lead in palm oil sustainability by Lee Chen Chen and Lau Xin Yi  Researchers at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs  Singapore | Tue, July 26 2016 -- the dissolution of IPOP in July, less than two years since it was launched, did not come as a surprise to industry observers.   Since its inception in 2014, IPOP had met with resistance from the Indonesian government and many local palm oil companies.   Dissenters had accused IPOP of infringing on Indonesia’s sovereignty and causing small-scale farmers to lose market access if they could not keep up with IPOP’s standards.   Various interests are clearly at play here. The importance of the palm oil sector to the Indonesian economy and smallholders’ livelihoods means that the country prefers to be in the driving seat in setting industry standards.   IPOP’s disbandment is a clear sign that its members lacked sufficient engagement with these key stakeholders. It has also increased the uncertainty surrounding Indonesia’s fire and haze problem...

17 July 2016: What is Singapore government's agenda? 

Haze of 2015: What is the Singapore government’s agenda?  BY TERRY XU JULY 14, 2016 -- At the height of the haze which engulfed the region last year, Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) sent notices to the six Indonesian paper & pulp companies to request for information under Section 9 of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA): PT Rimba Hutani MasPT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood IndustriesPT Bumi Sriwijaya SentosaPT Wachyuni MandiraPT Bumi Mekar HijauPT Bumi Andalas PermaiAdditionally, paper giants Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) was issued notice pursuant to Section 10 of the THPA seeking information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions. In short, Section 9 of the THPA requires companies to state what was being done to put out the fires within concessions and actions taken to immediately halt fires while Section 10 gives the NEA to obtain information from any company official whom the NEA may think may be considered responsible for the running of the company.While the notices were issued to paper and pulp companies, there were no notices issued to palm oil companies at all, despite several of which have clearly contributed to fires that have engulfed land concessions in Indonesia. This begs a question: Why is the Singapore government targeting only paper & pulp companies when palm oil mills and plantations have been equally liable for the haze which wreaked havoc in the region last year?...

7 July 2016: Of 2.6 million ha of peat restoration 50% responsibility of concessionaires, Indonesia Haze Crisis 2015 account for 97% of 1.2 billion tons CO2 equivalent emissions for the region that year 

New haze fears as palm oil firms ditch landmark Indonesia pact Tuesday July 5, 2016 - See more at:

Singapore to pursue firms over fires, despite Indonesian ire AFP | Sunday, Jul 3, 2016 - See more at:

Indonesia taking steps to prevent cross-border haze this year Source: Bernama -- JAKARTA, 27 June 2016:  This year, the air pollution crisis caused by the haze may not recur. This is based on Indonesia’s confidence that forest and oil palm plantation fires will be controlled, beginning this year, while it tackles at the same time the spectre of the haze haunting neighbouring countries annually. Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) chairman Joko Supriyono said the confidence was based on preparations being made by all parties – including the government, plantation companies and villagers in the oil palm plantation areas. “As fire is our common problem, GAPKI members have been asked to proactively assist the government to overcome the problem and villagers, advised to refrain from large-scale open burning.” In addition, he said Gapki would cooperate with the Indonesian government to monitor all hotspots, adding that GAPKI members were reminded not to resort to open burning..... He said, as an organisation representing palm oil entrepreneurs, GAPKI welcomed the directive of Indonesian president Joko Widodo (Jokowi) for the authorities to take stern action against any company carrying out open burning. Joko said GAPKI had also urged the authorities to take action against perpetrators of forest fires. “The forest and peat fires have been taking place for many years and recur every year, even before the growth of the palm oil industry. There are also laws that allow open burning to clear fields, all this has to be reviewed.” Recently, Jokowi ordered all authorities to carry out works to prevent the burning of forests and farms in the country, adding that they (the authorities) should be prepared to face the catastrophic forest fires in advance and make prevention a priority. The republic has set up a Peat Restoration Agency to carry out activities to preserve forests and ensure forest and farm fires do not recur this year. In addition, the Indonesian president has instructed all district-level authorities, including the army and police to monitor the fields.....

"A Lost Opportunity for Indonesia" RAN Responds to Dissolution of the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge. San Francisco. Today, Rainforest Action Network responded to the announcement made by six of the world’s largest palm oil companies to dissolve the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) group, an innovative platform designed to advance the environmental and human rights reforms needed to address the international controversy surrounding the rainforest destruction and labor exploitation associated with Indonesia’s palm oil industry. Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network issued the following statement. “IPOP was an important mechanism for Indonesian companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors by taking real steps to halt the rampant destruction of forests and peatlands, to end the widespread abuse of workers and address the long-standing conflicts resulting from the displacement of local communities from their lands for industrial scale plantations. IPOP’s dissolution is a disappointing step backward in the urgent fight to achieve truly responsible palm oil and is a major lost opportunity for Indonesia’s palm oil industry to maintain its stake in the global market. “IPOP’s former members, Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources, Musim Mas, Astra Agro Lestari, Asian Agri and Cargill, must now meet their responsible palm oil promises independently and demonstrate that they intend to follow through on the commitments made to smallholders, local communities, workers and customers across the globe that are demanding fundamental changes in the way the palm oil is produced....

Read more here:

Measuring carbon emissions

On land and in space, understanding the impacts of fires. To measure greenhouse gas emissions from the fires in maritime Southeast Asia in 2015, a variety of methods and expertise coalesced DEANNA RAMSAY   28 Jun 2016 -- The study’s authors determined that the carbon emissions released by the fires in September and October 2015 of 11.3 million tons per day were higher than those of the entire European Union, which daily released 8.9 million tons over the same period.....The widespread landscape fires in parts of Kalimantan, Sumatra and Papua last year generated noxious smoke and haze affecting millions – and international attention – and the team on the ground was the very first to assess the emissions from actively burning peatland..... “There have been some isolated studies before where people artificially set fires in the lab to try to understand the chemical characteristics of peatland fire smoke in Indonesia. But no one had done this on natural fires, and especially not on the kind of extreme fires seen in 2015. We are the first people to do that,” said King’s College London professor Martin J. Wooster, one of the study’s lead authors. The team used their measurements of ground-level smoke from burning peat to derive the emission factors, i.e. to understand how much carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane is released for a particular amount of tropical peat burned. Satellites provided data on the heat output being radiated by the fires, as well as information on the amount of carbon monoxide present in the surrounding atmosphere. From this, the total carbon emissions were determined by combining the satellite measurements and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) modeling framework with the newly determined emission factors from fires around Palangka Raya – one of the hardest hit sites. The researchers concluded that 884 million tons of carbon dioxide was released in the region last year – 97% originating from burning in Indonesia. The corresponding carbon emissions were 289 million tons, and associated carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions 1.2 billion tons.....“This sort of modeling has only been possible quite recently. When we saw the fires start in the region – knowing that it was an El Niño year – we were able to quickly start analyzing the situation, and we started contacting others who could contribute,” said study lead author Vincent Huijnen of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, who works on the CAMS framework. Wooster concurred about the clarity of their calculations because of fresh technologies....He said, “We found that this was the largest single fire event in terms of carbon emissions from Indonesia since 1997. We can much more confidently make our calculations because of the new satellite, modeling and field instrument technology that is now available compared to 20 years ago.”.... For David Gaveau, also a CIFOR scientist and study co-author, the fires in 2015 were different because they were primarily on drained, idle peatland. “In 1997 the drought lasted longer, the fires were more severe and a lot more forest burned. In 2015, fires mostly burned on degraded peatland covered with shrubs and wood debris,” he said.... “The last year has seen the largest single year atmospheric carbon dioxide increase since records began in the 1950s, and we calculated that the fires burning in Indonesia made up a significant component of the increase over what is ‘normal’ in non-El Niño years,” Wooster said..... For Murdiyarso, good policy is key – and providing numbers related to the 2015 fires can help. With the Indonesian government’s Peatland Restoration Agency established following the fires last year, there is movement to avert future fires.......

Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study  29 JUN 2016 -- 28 June 2016 – A new study of the forest and peatland fires that burned across maritime Southeast Asia in 2015 has found that the carbon emissions were the largest since 1997, when an even stronger El Niño also resulted in extended drought and widespread burning. Using a pioneering combination of regional satellite observations, on-the-ground measurements in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) modeling framework, the study’s authors determined that the daily carbon emissions released by the fires in September and October 2015 were higher than those of the entire European Union (EU) over the same period. The study, published in Scientific Reports, was carried out by a team led by Vincent Huijnen of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Martin J. Wooster of King’s College London and the NERC National Center for Earth Observation, and included Daniel Murdiyarso  and David Gaveau from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

CIFOR's Fire and Haze page:

Fire carbon emissions over maritime southeast Asia in 2015 largest since 1997 by V. Huijnen, M. J. Wooster, J. W. Kaiser, D. L. A. Gaveau, J. Flemming, M. Parrington, A. Inness, D. Murdiyarso, B. Main & M. van Weele. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 26886 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep26886 Received: 01 February 2016 Accepted: 09 May 2016 Published online: 31 May 2016  -- Prior tropical peat EFs are somewhat different, being based on combustion chamber investigations and forming the basis for the peat EF description in the widely used Akagi et al. compilation19. The uncertainties in the derived EFs are mainly driven by an estimated 10% uncertainty in the carbon content of the burning peat (~55% for peat-only fires)..... Our fire carbon emission estimate for Sept-Oct 2015 represents the largest seen over the Maritime southeast Asia region since 1997, but still it is only a quarter of the most recent estimate11 for the Sept-Oct period of that El Niño year. We note that fire carbon emission estimates for 1997 are intrinsically more uncertain8,9,11,12 than our 2015 estimate, considering that neither MODIS nor MOPITT satellite observations were available before 2000. The more limited carbon emissions for 2015 are most likely associated to the combined effects of reduced burnt area and reduced burn depth. Based on GFEDv4 burned area11, the Sept-Oct estimated area of peatland burned is 0.8 × 106 ha (1997: 1.7 × 106 ha), implying an average loss of 42 kg DM m−2 in peatland (1997: 78 kg DM m−2), equivalent to an average burn depth of 26 cm (1997: 50 cm), see Supplementary Information D. Since many areas that burned in 2015 are known to have burned during prior El Niño’s, this indicates the possibility that peatland areas previously burned consumed on average less fuel per unit area. Fire mitigation and control measures may also have been somewhat more effective than in 1997 and also meteorological factors affecting fire extent, such as the level of precipitation preceding Sept-Oct5 and the normal onset of the monsoon by the end of October, were not as severe in 2015 as they were during the more prolonged drought of 1997 (Fig. S1).....From the evaluation of C-IFS-GFAS against MOPITT over the larger domain spanning from 70°E–150°E and 11°S–6°N, we found a high bias in the outflow region west of Indonesia, but not over Kalimantan and Papua (Figs S3 and S4). This led us to significantly downscale the CO emissions over Sumatra, which we believe is likely associated with uncertainties in GFAS regarding the land cover type specification....

Vast Peat Fires Threaten Health and Boost Global Warming. Largest blazes on earth smolder for months in Canada and Indonesia By XiaoZhi Lim on July 2, 2016

THESE FIRES ARE HUGE, HIDDEN AND HARMFUL. WHAT CAN WE DO? Smoldering peat gives off massive quantities of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, but the search for solutions is on. By XiaoZhi Lim, freelance science reporter based in Singapore.  June 28, 2016 -- June 28, 2016 — As forest fires devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta, last month, a different sort of fire may have started beneath the ground. Peat, a carbon-rich soil created from partially decomposed, waterlogged vegetation accumulated over several millennia and the stuff that fueled Indonesia’s megafires last fall, also appears in the boreal forests that span Canada, Alaska and Siberia. With the intense heat from the Fort McMurray fires, “there’s a good chance the soil in the area could have been ignited,” says Adam Watts, a fire ecologist at Desert Research Institute in Nevada. Unlike the dramatic wildfires near Fort McMurray, peat fires smolder slowly at a low temperature and spread underground, making them difficult to detect, locate and extinguish.  ey produce little flame and much smoke, which can become a threat to public health as the smoke creeps along the land and chokes nearby villages and cities. Although they look nothing like it, peat fires are the “largest fires on earth.”And although they look nothing like it, peat fires are the “largest fires on earth,” says Guillermo Rein, a peat fire researcher at Imperial College in the United Kingdom....The boreal forests are thought to contain some 30 times more peat than Indonesia. Because they can smolder for weeks and months, sometimes even staying active underground throughout cold northern winters, peat fires emit on average the equivalent of 15 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to Rein — carbon that took thousands of years to sequester.... Rein recently received a five-year, €2 million grant from the European Research Council to develop a peat fire early warning system. He is trying to characterize the heat fingerprints of peat fires by replicating small peat fires in the laboratory and using infrared cameras to record the heat emitted. He hopes to use his findings to calibrate satellites specifically for peat fires, just as some motion sensors are calibrated to detect infrared radiation unique to humans.....Rein is also collecting the gases produced from his experiments and analyzing them for patterns that could become telltale warning signs of a growing peat fire. For example, the ratios of carbon monoxide or volatile organic compounds to carbon dioxide can be used to tell the difference between emissions from peat fires and those from combustion engines or power plants. These patterns could then be applied to handheld gas sensors or gas analyzers placed in drones, airplanes or buildings in nearby villages and cities to help detect peat fires....Once found, one problem to putting out peat fires is that peat soil repels water when it gets very dry, says Watts.... Adding a fire retardant to the water might help make water more effective at this. One example is Peat FireX, a plant-based powder developed in 2012 by Steve Sinunu, CEO of Texas-based EnvironX Solutions. When dissolved in water, it disrupts the strong hydrogen bonds between water molecules, making it easier for the water to penetrate soil. As the solution moves into the soil, it coats the peat to protect it from fire....Earlier this year, the Indonesian government adopted Peat FireX as a weapon against peat fires, according to Steve Sinunu and an independent company in Singapore who helped connect EnvironX with the Indonesian government....

Ravaged woodlands - Stricken trees provide clues about how America will adapt to global warming—but little hope that it can be averted   Jul 9th 2016 -- The growth of wildfires is a worldwide problem, with even bigger burns elsewhere. Siberia, Tasmania, Canada and Indonesia have seen record-breaking fires in recent years. According to Greenpeace, fire consumed over 7m acres of Russian forest in the year to May 23rd (the Kremlin offers much lower figures). The area of Canadian forest burning each year has roughly doubled since the 1970s; a wildfire near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, which started in May, has turned 1.5m acres of forest and 2,400 buildings to ash. Now heading north through Saskatchewan, the fire is reckoned to be Canada’s costliest natural disaster.

Indonesia Moving Toward Tougher Stance On Contested South China Sea JUN 15, 2016  -- Indonesian President Joko Widodo called a strategically important meeting with his security and political affairs minister this week over how the normally neutral Asian archipelago should handle increasing foreign pressure on its maritime claims. The minister, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, learned from the Monday meeting that government leaders will “formulate an Indonesia stance on the conflict” in the widely disputed South China Sea while avoiding any statements that show disunity, Indonesia’s Antara News reported.... Those goals most likely mean Widodo’s administration will stiffen its stance on the South China Sea, a 3.5 million-square-kilometer ocean north of the vast group of islands. That’s because Chinese fishing and coast guard vessels increasingly turn up in Indonesian-claimed waters. Indonesia, like Malaysia, has tried to stay neutral toward China’s aggressive maritime claims because it depends on Chinese investment in infrastructure and orders for palm oil, a key agricultural product. Beijing rewards Beijing’s restraint by not getting publicly angry about upsets at sea.....

29 June 2016: 5 palm oil firms face lawsuit over forest fires, moratorium on firms with idle concessions

5 palm oil firms face lawsuit over forest fires -- Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, June 28 2016 -- The government is gearing up to take some of the alleged perpetrators of last year’s massive forest fires to court for the first time. However, an environmental organization has lamented the limited scope of the action in comparison to the profound damage caused by the fires. The Environment and Forestry Ministry is in the final stage of filing civil lawsuits against five palm oil companies allegedly responsible for some of the 2015 forest fires, a tragedy that has been called a crime against humanity as it killed 19 people, mostly children, and caused more than US$16 billion in economic losses. Amid public pressure, the government decided to hand down administrative sanctions to 23 companies suspected of being behind the land and forest fires last year. These companies had their land-clearing licenses either revoked or frozen for their failure to act to prevent the fires, which led to the worst pollution in the region for almost two decades. While the government has started legal action in response to the fires, it has not taken any cases to court yet....

Govt to put moratorium on firms with idle concessions, Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, June 18 2016 | 10:29 am -- Soon, palm oil and forestry resource companies will be forbidden from starting any activities on any of their concessions that are idle, as the government plans to expand a moratorium on peatland use in a bid to curb the annual land and forest fires. The government is currently revising Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2015 on a permit moratorium for primary forests and peatlands, which has been in effect since May last year. The moratorium on clearing primary forests and peatlands was first introduced by then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2010 and was extended by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo through the Inpres last year. The original moratorium only banned permits to be issued allowing the use of peatland that has not yet been turned into concessions. However, following Jokowi’s instructions, the Inpres will be revised once again to impose a total moratorium  on the use of peatland, including land that has been turned into concessions but left idle. Jokowi called for a stronger moratorium because 10 people, mostly children, were killed by smoke pollution from last year’s fires....

West Papua - Sorong SEZ for processing palm and other resources

Indonesia to develop special economic zone in Sorong by Ayomi AmindoniAyomi Amindoni The Jakarta Post  June 14 2016;  Sorong Regent Stepanus Malak said that the development of infrastructure and facilities in the special economic zone would require Rp 5 trillion (US$373.9 million) in investment. Currently, there are 12 companies in the regency, including international oil and gas company Petrochina, as well as several companies from Japan, Korea and Australia. "The core business in the special economic zone will be palm oil processing, timber processing, fisheries, petrochemicals and oil refineries," he said.

Indonesia's biggest sago plant kicks off operation The Jakarta Post  January 1 2016 -- Perum Perhutani president director Mustoha Iskandar said that Papua had considerable potential for natural sago production. Good quality Papuan sago raja could produce 900 kilograms of sago from one branch, he said.... The plant's construction cost Rp 150 billion. The plant will hire 40 local workers to work in the factory and around 600 people to supply the sago logs.... In this way, Kais locals will no longer have to send their products to the Sorong market in Sorong, West Papua. The journey to Sorong could often take up to a week on a paddle boat. Gunarto, project chief of the management unit at Perum Perhutani, told on Thursday that the plant stands on five hectares of land while the sago tree forest stands in a 16,000 hectare concession, making it the biggest in the country.... He explained that the construction of the plant started in 2013. In the beginning of operations in January, the plant will only operate at 50 percent capacity. "We will have a full production rate in 2017," he said as quoted by The factory will produce 100 tons sago per day and is expected to produce 30,000 tons of sago products within one year. (rin)...

Match words with action on Papua abuses by Andreas Harsono  May 19 2016 President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has promised Papuans a change, beginning with “an open dialogue for a better Papua”. But aside from the release of a few political prisoners, there has been barely any signs of meaningful change on the ground in Papua.

15 June 2016: APP apologises for not handing over maps, Singapore cannot enter Indonesia's legal domain

Editor's note: In this complex issue with its international relations mix, the power of national administration for sphere of influence is strong. At the same time as facing regulatory upgrade, observers point to carrots for the business sector including Jokowi's tax amnesty. In related talk, some Indonesia-Singapore observers perceive a lack of real interest in pursuing an extradition arrangement at present. 

Indonesian businessman apologises for handling of info request from Peatland Restoration Agency The Straits Times - 1d ago JAKARTA - Prominent Indonesian businessman Franky Widjaja has apologised over Asia Pulp and Paper's handling of a request for information from Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG). The country's largest pulp and paper company, better ...

VP Kalla: Indonesians will not be prosecuted by Singapore over haze By Reuters June 13, 2016

Singapore cannot enter Indonesia's legal domain

14 June 2016: Indonesia Peat Restoration Agency talks details about process

Peat Agency Chief addresses concerns of CSOs 2016-06-06 --Chief of the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency, Nazir Foead, provided explicit details about the procedures and mechanisms to be followed in the peatland restoration process.... “We are now mapping all the maps, including where the peat domes will be situated, and then more detailed mapping to calculate and measure the depth of the peat will be performed. Based on this map, the peatlands, peat domes, depth and so on, we will assign zonation - where protection zones will be or where could be used for cultivation.”.... He took the opportunity to respond to concerns that have recently been leveled against the peat agency, specifically with respect to the replanting of acacia in peat domes and peatlands...

Peat expert dies from cancer after fighting Indonesian fires 12th June 2016 / Indra Nugraha... He died “because of the smoke,” added Kunin, a former student of Limin’s who later became his colleague. “Whenever there were fires, he was active in the field.” Half a million Indonesians suffered from respiratory ailments during the 2015 crisis, according to the government, which said last October that 19 people had died from the haze.  The long-term health effects of exposure to the toxic fumes remain poorly understood, but scientists in Palangkaraya measured “extremely hazardous” levels of ozone, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia and formaldehyde in the city where the haze turned the air a noxious orange color.

Note: Readers who know Limin also note that he was "very very heavy smoker" too. He spent time in his career in NGO sector advocacy, and he was a forester by training.

12 May 2016: Min Env For stops forest conversion nationwide, Norway helps on peatland-friendly agriculture, Indonesia-Malaysia G2G on haze issue (not on province basis)

Entire process for new palm oil permit issuance ends: Minister - Environment and Forestry Ministry - nationwide extension of current moratorium area removes Papua and other areas from conversion -

Norway to develop peatland-friendly agriculture in Indonesia, MOEF 50 boreholes, US$67 million in grants for peat lands restoration - 

Transboundary haze issue will be tackled govt-to-govt BY MAZWIN NIK ANIS 12 May 2016.... Malaysia had planned to sign an MoU with Sumatra on transboundary haze this year. “Indonesia pointed out that the province alone cannot tackle the issue and help is needed from the government. That is why Indonesia feels that whatever instrument that we want to use to tackle haze must be done government-to-government, instead of with provincial authorities...

  • Malaysia, Indonesia to sign new MoU to tackle trans-boundary haze September 12, 2015

Indonesia takes aim at palm oil after forest fires By Kiki Siregar, AFP May 2, 2016

Pressure Builds on Snack Food Giant PepsiCo to Drop Conflict Palm Oil April 29, 2016  Rainforest Action Network and SumOfUs help rally 100,000’s of people calling on PepsiCo to take meaningful action to halt deforestation and human rights abuses in its supply chain

How effective will Indonesia’s palm oil permit freeze really be? 4 May 2016 / Mongabay Haze Beat Observers question the extent to which the newly declared moratorium, which also applies to mining licenses, can actually be enforced.

Indonesia moves to ban new palm oil plantations to stop forest fires 1 May 2016

25 April 2016: Reactions to Jokowi's palm oil moratorium, BPDP invests in Asian Agri smallholder replanting, EU Legal Timber System, call for coconut export moratorium 

EIA Asks Indonesia to Stay the Course With EU Legal Timber System - A villager cuts timber illegally at a forest in Aceh province in this April 25, 2007 file photo. The Environmental Investigation Agency has urged President Joko Widodo to maintain Indonesia's commitment to a process that seeks to ensure that only legal timber products leave the archipelago..... By : Muhamad Al Azhari | on April 19, 2016... The nongovernmental organization released a statement on Tuesday (19/04) – while Joko met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron on his business-focused European tour –  highlighting that in 1999, the UK and Washington DC-based agency led the way in exposing massive illegal logging in Indonesia's rainforests. "At that time, it was estimated that as much as 80 percent of [Indonesia's] timber entering trade was illegal," the EIA said in the statement. The EIA campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal logging, hazardous waste, endangered wildlife trade and the sale of climate and ozone-damaging chemicals..... It added that the European Union established in 2003 the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (Flegt) action plan, which refers to a series of measures that aim to ban illegal timber from entering EU markets. The measures also seek to address the root causes for illegal logging in a country, including a lack of transparency, poor governance, rampant corruption and poor accountability from those responsible for managing forests. "Key to the Flegt plan are voluntary partnership agreements, bilateral trade deals negotiated between a timber producer country and the EU to ensure only legal timber finds its way to the marketplace," the EIA's statement said. She said after more than a decade of negotiations, Indonesia is likely just "months away" from seeing the first Flegt- approved timber. Doherty said that while Indonesia has a lot of homework to do, the Flegt process will help ensure that forest crime can be addressed "effectively.".... "The president's statement last week confirming that there will be a moratorium on oil palm and mining permits, together with an audit of current permits, is a positive step in the right direction and if implemented properly, will also stem the conversion of natural forests to oil palm plantations and tackle illegality within the sector," she said....

Oil Palm Fund invests Rp 6.75 billion with smallholders by  April 21 2016... The Indonesian Oil Palm Estate Fund ( BPDP ) has invested Rp 6.75 billion ( US$512,530 ) with 155 farmers to help them replant their plantations in Siak, Riau. The farmers are partners of palm oil producer Asian Agri.... BPDP president director Bayu Krisnamurti said that was the initial portion of funds to be disbursed by the institution as part of government efforts to support the sustainable palm oil industry. In the first phase of a multi-year program, the BPDP plans to spend Rp 52 billion to replant 2,100 hectares of palm plantations. "Each farmer receives Rp 25 million per hectare. The money has been transferred to the receivers’ bank accounts," he said in remarks on Wednesday during the fund disbursement ceremony at the Mulus Jaya village unit cooperative ( KUD ). The fund disbursement, he continued, had been quite easy and took only three months to process. He warned the farmers not to misuse the cash for other purposes and asked the KUD and banks to supervise the utilization of the funds..... In its program, the BPDP aims to help farmers replant a total of 100,000 hectares of oil palm plantations per year. The program is reserved for smallholder farmers with plantations  of less than 4 hectares. Those participating must join the KUD for replanting..... Mulus Rahayu KUD chair Pawito Saring said the grant was allocated to help replant 310 hectares of smallholder farmers’ plantations.... "Each farmer has previously taken out a 13-year loan from Bank Syariah Mandiri worth Rp 51 million to replant a hectare of plantation. With the [BPDP] fund disbursement, the farmers only need to repay Rp 26 million to the bank," he said....

Review moratorium on oil palm plantations by Edi SuhardiEdi Suhardi, Vice President of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil April 22 2016.... There are two key factors contributing to the organic decline of new palm oil plantation expansions. The first is its falling price. The most extensive new development took place in the period of 2007 to 2014 when the crude palm oil ( CPO ) prices ranged from US$600 to $1,200.... The second impediment is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s ( RSPO ) stringent standards for its members on developing new plantations. RSPO members from Indonesian palm oil growers control the largest concessions and operations on plantations....The high pace of new plantation development has fallen sharply due to the introduction of strict and stringent RSPO standards preventing plantation development on high carbon stock ( HCS ) areas and high conservation-value ( HCV ) areas and implementation of free, prior and informed consent, which became effective as of 2014......The sustainability standards, which RSPO members have fulfilled, have created an earnest impact to new plantation development in Indonesia toward an environmentally friendly and socially-sensitive commodity. All primary forest and peatland areas over HCS and HCV areas will be left intact.... But there are hundreds of palm oil companies who have yet to abide by such sustainability standards and still aim to develop on HCS or HCV areas.... This is where the government has to act to change the way these companies operate and to enforce such sustainability standards in operations, particularly in new expansions...

To fight haze, step up certification of palm oil firms. commentary. BY TAN YI HAN PUBLISHED: 10:00 PM, APRIL 22, 2016... When Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya was reported as telling Singapore to “focus on its own role in addressing” the transboundary haze instead of “commenting too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing”, it unsurprisingly led to angry rebuttals by readers in Singapore.... It is time for companies in Singapore that buy palm oil such as food outlets, consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, to start by at least committing to go haze-free. Consumers can then play a part by supporting these responsible companies. We all can play our part to make Singapore haze-free....Tan Yi Han is from PM.Haze (People’s Movement to Stop Haze)

Indonesia: Palm oil lobby angry over Joko Widodo's move to limit slash and burn farming April 22, 2016 By Jacob J... Green organisations welcomed the proposal, but plantation industry is miffed over the president's move. "The president's suggestion of doubling Indonesian palm growers' productivity is easier said than done," Togar Sitanggang, a senior official at Musim Mas, told the Jakarta Globe. "The problem with productivity has been there for years. There is no budget for this," Sitanggang said, adding that it was not clear how companies will pay for better seeds. The report says smaller plantation companies will be harder hit by the new proposal while big producers like Sinar Mas Agro Resources, Astra Agro Lestari and Wilmar International could withstand the effect of the curbs..... Despite a moratorium on clearing primary forest and peat-land, the area under palm oil cultivation in the country increased by around 9 percent last year. Last month Singaporean officials said the country suffered losses of about S$700 million due to large-scale haze that enveloped the city state during 2015....

FACTBOX-The human and environmental cost of Indonesia's haze fires BY ALISA TANG

Indonesia Bans New Palm Oil and Mining Operations - Indonesia’s President Widodo vows to improve efforts to curb fires and deforestation By BEN OTTO April 15, 2016

Indonesia to Issue a Moratorium on New Palm Oil Concessions By : Dion Bisara & Tri Listiyarini | on April 15, 2016

Association calls for moratorium on raw coconut exports by Ayomi AmindoniAyomi Amindoni April 22 2016... The local coconut processing industry has urged the government to issue a moratorium on raw coconut exports in a bid to meet growing demand in the downstream industry. Amrizal Idroes, vice chairman of the Indonesian Coconut Processing Industry Association ( HIPKI ), said the local industry faced a shortage in raw materials due to rampant coconut exports and declining crop productivity.... The industry needed a total of 14.6 billion coconuts in 2015, while available supply was only 12 billion coconuts, according to the association's data. Indonesia produces coconut milk, desiccated coconut, coconut oil, coconut butter and coconut cream.... “The supply shortage has caused production to decrease by 30 to 50 percent over the last two years,” he said in a discussion in Jakarta on Friday...

World’s wild tiger count rising for first time in a century  11 April, 2016.... The world’s count of wild tigers roaming forests from Russia to Vietnam has gone up for the first time in more than a century, with some 3,890 counted by conservation groups and national governments in the latest global census, wildlife conservation groups said on Monday. The tally marks a turnaround from the last worldwide estimate in 2010, when the number of tigers in the wild hit an all-time low of about 3,200, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum...  India alone holds more than half of them, with 2,226 tigers roaming reserves across the country, from the southern tip of Kerala state to the eastern swamps in West Bengal, according to its last count in 2014.... Not all nations are seeing progress, though. While Russia, India, Bhutan and Nepal all counted more tigers in their latest surveys, Southeast Asian countries have struggled. They are also behind the others in conservation measures, and do not yet conduct a tiger census on their own... .The global tiger count is based on data from 2014. Here is the tally broken down by country: Bangladesh, 106; Bhutan, 103; Cambodia, 0; China, more than 7; India, 2,226; Indonesia, 371; Laos, 2; Malaysia, 250; Myanmar, no data available; Nepal, 198; Russia, 433; Thailand, 189; Vietnam, fewer than 5....

Commentary: Palm Oil Politics Impede Sustainability in Southeast Asia - Indonesia has facilitated the inflow of Malaysian capital and technology. Malaysian companies control 25 percent of oil palm plantations in Indonesia. By : Rob Cramb & John McCarthy | on April 20, 2016... Indonesia and Malaysia are at the center of the world’s decades-long palm oil boom. Between them the two countries have planted more than 15 million hectares of oil palm, employ about 4 million workers, and produce 84 percent of the world’s palm oil. It is the biggest and fastest rural transformation the countries have seen. Palm oil, a vegetable oil used in many foods and other products, has come under fire for its role in deforestation, biodiversity loss and massive forest fires, as well as major social and economic conflicts. This has led to a rise in consumer activism and campaigns against unsustainable oil palm production, with many brands committing to purchase palm oil from sustainable sources only. While governments, civil society groups and industry roundtables are trying to address these many problems, the industry continues to create conflict as it moves into frontier zones with apparent impunity. Why is this?....This “oil palm complex” is managed by a powerful cross-country coalition of political and agribusiness interests. Despite the industry rhetoric, this coalition puts “profits” well ahead of “people” or “planet.”.... Three important but contradictory trends have emerged in the past two decades.... Domination of big plantations...Rise of smallholders....Is private regulation working? A third trend arises from the widespread failure of governments to regulate the excesses of the oil palm industry. Civil society groups and some large corporations have sought to bring about change though private regulation. In the past two years, transnational activism has achieved important shifts in the policies of major producers, buyers and end users of palm oil. Leading firms such as Cargill and Unilever have made commitments to cut their links to deforestation, peatland development and exploitation in the palm oil they procure. Thus there are some signs that the balance of power within the oil palm complex may have shifted in favor of more inclusive and sustainable outcomes. However, these commitments will have limited impact without major changes in accountability and enforcement within the two countries. This especially applies at state and district levels where the key land and profit-sharing deals take place... Moreover, the launching by Indonesia and Malaysia in 2015 of the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries suggests that these governments and their domestic agribusiness allies are pushing back against the pressure from international NGOs and global corporations. They are emphasizing their “right to develop” and capitalizing on the acquiescence of their biggest markets – China and India – which have higher priorities than safeguarding Southeast Asian forests and livelihoods....

16 April 2016: Jokowi reportedly will order moratorium on new oil palm concessions, IPOP members alleged cartel behaviour, Eyes on the Forest report accuses large processor-traders of missing pledges

Editor's note: Implementation has been issue in many areas, due to illegal planting. An improved image for palm oil, will depend on how well the moratorium is fulfilled. Illegal product is featured in  the April 2016 Eyes on the Forest report (by Friends of the Earth -Walhi Riau, Jikalahari and WWF Indonesia) that discusses the problem of non-certification traceability, where investigative research (tracking FFB trucks and CPO tankers) has apparently shown illegal / "tainted" product has entered the pledged high sustainability traceable supply-chain of key processor-trader groups in Riau (a core haze zone).

'Zero chance of last year's haze happening again this year': Indonesian agency - The head of Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency says determination from the government, palm oil and pulp and paper companies, as well as the community will see that fires do not break out on peatlands this year.  By Liyana Othman 15 Apr 2016

DBS: Plantation Companies: Indonesia to issue moratorium on new palm oil concession

- Indonesian President reportedly will order moratorium on new oil palm concessions

- Indonesia’s KPPU to probe Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) for suspected “cartel” practices

- No significant impact on listed planters’ existing land bank, nor sustainability practices

Reuters reported last night that President Joko Widodo will issue a moratorium on new oil palm concessions to reduce its impact on the environment. The news article also said that the Agriculture Minister believes that Indonesia needs to invest in sugar, corn, and cattle, while oil palm concessions already issued could be more than twice as productive.... Separately, Indonesia's Anti-trust Commission (KPPU) also intends to investigate signatories of IPOP for suspicion of cartel practices. These include Wilmar International (WIL SP), Cargill, Golden Agri Resources (GGR SP), Astra Agro Lestari (AALI IJ), Musim Mas, and Asian Agri.... Point: We believe the moratorium affects issuance of new Izin Lokasi, typically offered by provincial governments and regencies. However, it is not clear what the term "concession" refers to (given the multitude of permits and licences involved in establishing an oil palm plantation). New regulations are not typically applied retroactively, in our view. 

Palm Oil Analyticis, 15 April 2016: Traceability problem linked to top palm oil firms - A study by Indonesian NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest (EoF) has identified palm oil sourced from illegal plantation in pro-tected Sumatran forest areas in the supply chain of some of the world’s top palm oil firms, including Wilmar International, Golden Agri-Resources, Royal Golden Eagle and Musim Mas. The study covered five conservation areas in Indonesia, including Tesso Nilo National Park, with fresh fruit bunches or CPO from illicit plantations in these areas appearing in the books of the named firms. This highlights the complexity in tracing sources of palm oil, as various independent mills and smallholders all sell their output to one of more of these firms, which may not have full traceability of product origin. All the named firms have pledged to practice sustainable environmental policies, but have little control or oversight over third-party operators. It is a gap that needs to be addressed and taken seriously, with the potential fallout being severe, as seen in the recent suspension of Malaysia’s IOI by the RSPO.

Companies with zero-deforestation pledges still using illegal palm oil - An investigation by Indonesian activists has shown that palm oil grown on destroyed tiger and elephant habitats is present in the supply chains of industry giants such as Wilmar, Musim Mas, and Golden Agri-Resources. CPO truck EOF By Vaidehi Shah  8 April 2016

Reports on illegal FFB bought in 2012-2015 via investigative research

Indonesian forest fire and haze risk remains high  By Nigel Sizer, Fred Stolle and Susan Minnemeyer  18 July 2013

10 Mar 2016: Indonesia peatland agency depends on donations, Infospot by APRIL Group on its 150,000 ha Riau peat forest project, where's KL haze from? 

Editor's note: KL notably hazy today and that's widely on social media. So wondering what's the source. Maps here:


Indonesia’s peatland agency depends on donations by Anton Hermansyah | March 08 2016; The agency has three sources of funding: the state budget, donations from other countries and local donations from the public or from companies through corporate social responsibility (CSR). The agency received around US$1 billion from the Norwegian government recently.... Formed in January 2016, the BRG is tasked with restoring two million hectares of peatland in four regions: Pulang Pisau in Central Kalimantan, Ogan Komering Ilir in South Sumatra, Musi Banyuasin in South Sumatra and Meranti in Riau. Those peatland areas have repeatedly been affected by fire during drought.... Three more provinces, Jambi, West Kalimantan and Papua, are included in its operational area. - See more at:

Indonesia’s largest landscape-level  forest restoration project ongoing in Kampar Peninsula | Inforial | Thu, March 10 2016 APRIL Group has adopted a landscape approach in restoring 150,000 hectares of environmentally important peat forest in the Kampar Peninsula in Riau province, Sumatra, involving multiple stakeholders, including local communities. - See more at:

3 March 2016: Financial Times on the Indonesia "great land rush" and problems implementing the Norway-Indonesia $1 billion anti-deforestation deal

Editor's note: And not to forget that in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis, that moves to liberalise the economy to boost FDI and DDI also resulted in major shift in concessionaires requirement on smallholder scheme development. As some senior managers in Indonesia oil palm tell it - they used to have to reserve 80% of their concession area for smallholders, but this was practically reversed and only 20% need be kept for smallholders. A major question on political and business will to change. Many do ask why regulations are regarded as an independent variable. In the world of political-business ties, many see regulations as a dependent variable. Also, it's great to see Indonesia deforestation indicator in relation to that in Brazil - please refer to FT graphic. Also, Greenpeace has released a new report on palm oil use and deforestation pledges. I've put in screenshots from the Greenpeace imagery on the topic - note the messaging on the health of children and babies, oil palm being planted on burnt land and orangutans losing their habitat in the peat-fire driven burning. World Bank reporting has also indicated suspicions about oil palm being planted on burned land, and views such activity as benefiting a handful of individuals; a viewpoint quite contrary to the current smallholder narrative.

The great land rush - Indonesia: Saving the earth  MARCH 1 2016 Financial Times; ... progress in Indonesia has been so woeful that Oslo has handed over only $60m, raising questions about whether even the most magnanimous efforts at stopping deforestation can succeed — and equally pressing concerns about climate change.... Brazil was well on the path to doing both some years before Norway’s $1bn offer materialised. Large swaths of land were put under state protection or declared indigenous people’s territory, and dozens of illegal loggers and land grabbers were caught and jailed.... Importantly, Brazil also had BNDES, the huge Brazilian development bank that manages the Amazon Fund, which raises money to help the country protect its forests; Oslo was happy to put its money there. A similar fund was envisaged for Indonesia in 2010 and the finance ministry has been working on its design. But that has not happened and the reason for the hold-up is revealing.... This came to mind as I listened to Kuntoro Mangkusubroto explain why there is still no permanent fund for Norway’s $1bn. He was formerly a senior official in the office of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and led a task force set up to bring the Norwegian forestry plan to life. “That is not Norway’s fault. It’s ours,” he said, when we met in one of Jakarta’s plush hotels. “I know this country well and enemy number one is corruption..... Brazil had corruption problems too, but Mr Pharo, Norway’s international forestry initiative head, said it had institutions such as independent public prosecutors who did a considerable amount to ensure forest protection laws were obeyed. There was also a conscious decision by the federal government to deal with the problem..... “That made a substantial difference. Illegal deforestation is still recognised by the government of Brazil as a key problem. But, generally, if you break the law the risk of being punished is very real. Impunity can no longer be taken for granted. In Indonesia, this process is just starting to happen,” he said...... 

Adding to the confusion, provincial and district governments gained more control over land use after the end of Suharto’s rule, and they sometimes issued permits that were in conflict with what Jakarta had approved. “That mess has helped to allow deforestation,” said Frances Seymour, a US forestry policy expert who in 2006-2012 ran the Center for International Forestry Research, which has its headquarters in Indonesia....... After Mr Mangkusubroto’s task force encouraged these groups to submit maps of their territories for the national mapping effort, activists went on to win an important Constitutional Court ruling, opening the door to recognition of indigenous people’s right to forest land previously claimed by the state.... “It’s kind of breathtaking that that would be possible,” said Ms Seymour, explaining that talk of indigenous rights in Indonesia was once considered subversive and this is just one example of how Norway’s $1bn initiative changed the debate in Indonesia. “It caused a tectonic shift in the politics of forests in Indonesia, which the Ministry of Forestry had had a pretty iron-clad grip on for the previous 30 years. It really shook things up.” But it is still far from clear when or if this will translate into an actual cut in deforestation...... Following the disaster, President Widodo took the unusual step of appointing a former World Wildlife Fund director to head a new Peatland Restoration Agency. Now he tells the Norwegians that he will ban the clearing and draining of undisturbed peatland from June 1, a move Mr Helgesen describes as a potentially “monumental” contribution — if it is implemented....

Jakarta to sue 9 more firms over forest fires linked to haze MAR 1, 2016; The Indonesian government is to take nine more companies to court over forest fires that led to the transboundary haze crisis last year. This takes to 19 the number of firms being sued by the Environment and Forestry Ministry over the environmental disaster... He declined to name the firms or say whether they are local or foreign, but he said that 23 other companies have been penalised over the illegal fires, including 16 that had their business licences suspended and three that have been permanently banned from operating in Indonesia.... The government sued BMH for 7.8 trillion rupiah (S$820 million) last year for clearing land in 2014 using the outlawed slash-and- burn technique, a method that often leads to uncontrollable fires which produce thick haze. But a Palembang district court ruled on Dec 30 that there was no evidence that BMH had deliberately started fires. Mr Rasio said the ministry had lodged its appeal in the South Sumatra provincial court following consultations with 26 legal experts....

Palm oil: who’s still trashing forests? Blogpost by Annisa Rahmawati - 3 March, 2016 at 3:451 comment; How 'clean' is the palm oil used by major brands around the world? Today, we're releasing the results of our investigation into which companies are keeping promises to stop deforestation in Indonesia for palm oil. Take a look now to see who's keeping up - and who's lagging way behind....

How palm oil companies have made Indonesia’s forest fires worse November 20, 2015 by Jamie Woolley; While companies and ministers try to apportion blame for what’s been described as the worst environmental disaster so far this century, oil palm saplings are already appearing among the ashes of the ruined forest..... Greenpeace researchers have found evidence that some palm oil and paper firms are stepping in quickly to profit from the devastation and establish plantations in recently burnt areas.... Yet figures show that deforestation is on the rise. Our research suggests ‘no deforestation’ commitments from both industry and government regularly being flouted, ignored and not enforced. However, the government has repeatedly massaged the moratorium maps to exclude land handed over to plantation companies, and this is exactly what happened in this case: the boundaries were redrawn so the PT ASMR land no longer fell under the moratorium. Our analysis suggests that between 2011 and 2013 nearly a fifth of deforestation occurred in areas covered by the moratorium. At the root of this is a lack of transparency about land usage and which companies have permission to develop which areas..... The Indonesian government has refused to release mapping data that would show what’s earmarked for industrial usage, and without that information enforcing the moratorium – as well as company ‘no deforestation’ policies – is all but impossible.... Elsewhere on Borneo, in West Kalimantan, lies a patch (if you can call 100 km2 ‘a patch’) of land under the control of palm oil producer ...... Recently cleared deep peat on its land in West Kalimantan was ravaged by fire in July, and just weeks later investigators witnessed excavators preparing this burnt land for planting....  Policies and decrees are only as good as the enforcement methods put in place to uphold them, and the evidence shows that for plantation agriculture in Indonesia these are lacking. And while companies and ministers try to apportion blame for what’s been described as the worst environmental disaster so far this century, oil palm saplings are already appearing among the ashes of the ruined forest....

2 February 2016: Ex-WWF activist Nazir Foead heads BRG, announces four districts for peat restoration effort focus, sanctions against companies will be firm

Editor's note - missed this economic calculus from World Bank, thanks to reader for pointing it out: 

World Bank environmental specialist Ann Jeannette Glauber also speculates on the economic calculus, if every hectare burned in 2015 were converted to palm oil: “So on the one hand US$16bil cost to the public, on the other hand, US$8bil– lots of money – to a handful of individuals.“

PEAT RESTORATION WILL FOCUS ON 4 DISTRICT 01 February 2016 by Infosawit;  Nazir Foead, Head of BRG (Peat Restoration Agency; former WWF conservation director, was sworn in 20 Jan 2016 by President Jokowi), announces that peat restoration efforts will focus on 4 districts: 

  • Pulang Pisau, Kalimantan Tengah
  • Meranti, Riau
  • Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI), Sumatera Selatan
  • Musi Banyuasin, Sumatera Selatan

Regarding sanctions on companies that have been involved in forest fires, he stated... that law enforcement should be firm. "There should be a half-and-half, no bargaining" ..... Presidential Decree No. 1 dated 6 January 2016 sets out priority areas: South Sumatra, Jambi, Riau, Central Kalimantan , South Kalimantan and Papua*. *BRG notes that peat here is not as deep as in Sumatra and Kalimantan....

Nazir Foead, Mantan Direktur WWF, Ditunjuk Sebagai Kepala Badan Restorasi Gambut by  Qayuum Amri

25 January 2016: RGE's Tanoto writes on Indonesia fires at Davos WEF

RGE's Tanoto writes on Indonesia fires at Davos,

4 January 2016: Indonesia punishes 23 companies and 33 companies in process. Jokowi's Push for 2016 Tax Amnesty Plan seen as harmful for long-term compliance; World Bank reports "a few hundred businesses and a few thousand farmers seek to profit" from forest and peat fires to detriment of 10 millions. Greenpeace worries about tainted chain-of-custody and says "little evidence that corporate ‘No Deforestation’ commitments are yet having any effect on the ground."

Editor's note: Reports by World Bank and Greenpeace underline chain-of-custody and corporate interest concerns- a few hundred businesses. Greenpeace's report highlights the role on commodity traders and FFB trading (palm fruit ending up at major group's mills). Indonesian government's unprecedented move to revoke or freeze company licenses - 23 sanctioned and 33 in process at end December. Notable moves against companies, and likely new harder-line shift of NGOs and pressure on financial institutions against the fire-haze product supply-chain. The 2015 fire-haze episode was very bad and points to need for the existing NGO-corporate sustainability nexus to evolve. Also worth watching out for policy shifts at Greenpeace, as Kumi Naidoo stepped down in Dec 2015,

Jokowi's Push for 2016 Tax Amnesty Plan Kick-Off Seen as Flawed by Chris Brummitt January 4, 2016
; ... Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Jokowi, as the president is known, is under pressure to increase government spending on public works and boost faltering growth, which languished below 5 percent for much of his first year in office.... Indonesia had originally planned to implement amnesty in 2015. OECD: Amnesty will be harmful for long-term compliance... Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s government will start 2016 trying to get lawmakers to approve the country’s fourth tax amnesty since independence, a plan it says will lure back money stashed overseas to net an extra $4.4 billion of revenue this year... Bad move, say tax analysts, anti-corruption activists and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The quest for a short-term budget boost risks missing its mark and exacerbating the country’s perennial tax evasion, they say.

World Bank's "INDONESIA ECONOMIC QUARTERLY: Reforming amid uncertainty," December 2015: "According to the government, 2.6 million hectares of land burned between June and October 2015, an area four and half times the size of Bali. Man-made fires – more than 100,000 of them – were used to prepare land for agriculture and to gain access to land cheaply. The absence of controlled burning measures or sufficient law enforcement meant that the fires grew out of control, fed by drought and exacerbated by the effects of El Niño. This vast economic and environmental crisis is repeated year after year, as a few hundred businesses and a few thousand farmers seek to profit from land and plantation speculation practices, while tens of millions of Indonesians suffer health costs and economic disruptions. In 2015, fires cost Indonesia an estimated IDR 221 trillion (USD 16.1 billion)..." Page 18.

Greenpeace's "INDONESIA’S FORESTS: UNDER FIRE, Indonesia’s fire crisis is a test of corporate commitment to forest protection," some excerpts: Massive deforestation: Since 1990, one-fourth of Indonesia’s forest has been lost – 31 million ha... Fires: About 20% of fire hotspots detected during 2015 (to 26 October) occurred within pulpwood plantation concessions and a further 16% within oil palm concessions... From cleared and burnt rainforest, the tainted chain-of-custody....While commodity traders with ‘No Deforestation’ policies ... monitor risks around the mills in their supply chains, it is not until civil society organisations bring public exposure to problematic cases that real action seems to be taken to cut suppliers off....There is therefore little evidence that corporate ‘No Deforestation’ commitments are yet having any effect on the ground. In 2014 and 2015 (to 10 June) oil palm concessions accounted for about a fifth of FORMA deforestation alerts, similar to their share of 2011-13 deforestation..... In addition, unlicensed development for palm oil production is widespread and a major cause of illegal deforestation in some areas, with past evidence of palm fruit from illegal plantations ending up at major groups’ mills....

Indonesia punishes 23 companies for causing forest fires Associated Press, Jakarta, Indonesia | National | Wed, December 23 2015 - See more at:

Companies Found Guilty of Causing the Indonesian Haze to Face Consequences by Joanna Plucinska @joannaplucinska    Dec. 22, 2015; ...In an unprecedented move, the Indonesian government will either revoke or freeze company licenses if they are found to be directly involved. Three companies implicated in starting forest fires have already had their licenses revoked, causing them to permanently shut down.. “We have sanctioned 23 companies in total, ranging from administrative sanctions to license revocation, while 33 others are still in the process, they could have their licenses revoked too if they are found guilty,” Environment Ministry official Kemal Amas told AFP.

18 December 2015: RSPO press release - Indonesia concession maps to go online in 2Q2016 via WRI's Global Forest Watch website

RSPO press release - PALM OIL CONCESSION MAPS OF RSPO MEMBERS TO BECOME PUBLICLY AVAILABLE  KUALA LUMPUR, December 18, 2015: In response to the devastating land and forest fires affecting Indonesia every year, and in order to improve the monitoring and enforcement of its Principles & Criteria (P&C), the RSPO will publish its member's oil palm concession maps. This commitment stems from an RSPO General Assembly resolution of November 2013 which required RSPO members to submit maps for all their palm oil concessions, however the legality of this resolution has since been under challenge in Indonesia and Malaysia, which led to a freeze in implementation. After taking legal advice and extensive discussions with the key stakeholder in Indonesia and Malaysia, the RSPO can now confirm that it will publish all digital maps of its members oil palm concessions worldwide, except for Malaysia, where the legality of the public disclosure of concession maps continues to be ambiguous within the laws of the country. The RSPO will make this information publically available during the 2nd quarter of 2016 via the Global Forest Watch platform.... 

12 December 2015: Smallholders and CIFOR on restoration, Jokowi to oversee Indonesia peat restoration agency, Rp50 trillion over next five years to lay the groundwork for rehabilitation, photos of large-scale clearance of peatland forests, community dam activism in Central Kal. WALHI uses Wilmar data.

Smallholders at the heart of Indonesia’s zero-deforestation dispute - Government and business may find common ground in supporting small-scale oil palm farmers.  by Thomas Hubert

Restoration as a local solution with global benefits - Forest landscape restoration should be at the core of climate change strategies, Global Landscapes Forum hears.  by John Cannon 9 Dec 2015

Restoration: Developing countries are doing it for themselves - Developing countries will end up paying for most of their landscape restoration, says Nigeria's former finance minister.  Center for International Forestry Research 7 Dec 2015

Jokowi to oversee Indonesia peat restoration agency but details thin on the ground  26th November 2015 / Mongabay Haze Beat

Malaysia, Indonesia to harmonise palm oil certification  By OOI TEE CHING - 27 November 2015; .... Last week, at the Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Indonesia President Joko Widodo announced each country will contribute an initial US$5 million to kickstart CPOPC’s operations.... Yesterday, Indonesia Vice President Muhammad Jusuf Kalla in addressing an international business gathering of 1,200 at the Indonesian Palm Oil Conference (IPOC) 2015, announced Indonesia will be restoring damaged forest and peatland ecosystem. Jusuf announced the government is setting aside Rp50 trillion, for the next five years, to lay the groundwork for rehabilitation. The first phase of restoration will cover two million hectares of forest and peatland. Fadhil acknowledged Jusuf’s remarks that the allocation is equivalent to the annual tax contributed by plantation companies to the government.  In preparation for climate change talks beginning November 30 in Paris, Indonesia and Mal aysia will highlight CPOPC’s long term plans in tackling the region’s haze problem. This will include better dissemination of facts and figures of oil palm planting on peat soil. CPOPC membership, under government-to- government framework, is open to all oil palm cultivating countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Thailand, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Uganda....

The Indonesian cost of Chinese palm oil Venkatachalam Anbumozhi, Jakarta | Opinion | Thu, November 19 2015.... Medical costs are difficult to calculate at this point. But in 1997, another year of major haze, forest fires in Indonesia exacted a short-term economic impact across the three countries of around $1.4 billion from air-pollution-related health costs. Deforestation today plants the economic blight of tomorrow. From 2000 to 2010, Indonesia saw its forests diminish by 500,000 hectares each year. 41 percent of Indonesia’s remaining forest land is considered degraded....Seeming to honor its agreement, the Indonesian government has opened 244 cases against illegal peat-burnings; is investigating 16 palm oil companies for their involvement; and recently extended its moratorium on forestry ministry licensing of peatland areas.But the Jokowi administration has acted ambivalently with regards to peat-for-palm arson in the past, and there’s reason to doubt its present investigations will reach their conclusions.In May 2011 the Norwegian moratorium was brought into effect. However, it contained numerous exemptions as a result of business lobbying. Projects whose applications were received prior to the presidential instruction can still proceed, as can projects related to mining.In 2013 the Indonesian government proposed six million hectares of degraded land (an area larger than the Indonesian province of Aceh) that could be used for oil palm expansion — enough to achieve the country’s national target of doubling palm oil production by 2020 without additional deforestation.In August the signees of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), which committed producers to industry-leading sustainability practices, were advised by the government to exempt small stakeholders from greener standards. - See more at:

Indonesia's Forests Up in Smoke - By : Ulet Ifansasti December 07, 2015 Fires on drained peatlands are a disaster, and have made Indonesia into a major greenhouse emitter. Indonesia’s fire crisis, the result of decades of wholesale forest and peatland destruction, has put Indonesia’s plantation industries in the global spotlight. Global consumer companies and traders must face up to their role in fuelling this disaster. Existing ‘No Deforestation’ policies and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) membership are not enough. ... The use of fire in agriculture is still common in Indonesia, particularly among palm oil producers that clear vast stretches of peatlands annually to make way for their plantations.  These practices have spurred residents from Paduran village, Central Kalimantan, to take action as they team up with Greenpeace, several NGOs and the University of Palangkaraya to shine a spotlight on rapidly receding water levels of the region's peatlands.; Note: photos include those on plantation highlighted here,

CIFOR DG’s Column - Climate isn’t everything … so welcome to the Global Landscapes Forum - Many solutions for a sustainable future are tied to landscapes and must meet local needs, while building on global talks....Landscapes, therefore, are places where many of our solutions for a more sustainable future must happen... The recent fire and haze crisis in Indonesia demonstrates why we need to take a broader landscape approach and a longer-term perspective. The mainstream media tend to characterize the fires as primarily issues of greenhouse gas emissions and nature conservation. While these are indeed critical, the fires really go way beyond. Health, poverty, food, rights, land tenure, law and order, and economic growth are all issues that come into play. Framing the haze crisis mainly around climate concerns is simply not accurate, especially for those closest to the scene that depend on these landscapes...

Meet the Indonesians taking climate action into their own hands Blogpost by Yuyun Indradi - 2 December, 2015 at 4:29 5 comments  Just over a year ago, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo of Indonesia - one of the biggest emitters along with the US, China and India - visited a local community affected by the forest fires and vowed to tackle the devastating crisis. But with parts of the country being blanketed in toxic smoke over the past few months, local communities, volunteers and activists can't damn stand it anymore! So they're taking action into their own hands.... Local villagers, NGO activists and volunteers build a community dam to block a canal that is draining peatlands for plantations in Paduran Village, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia. The province has been the epicentre of Indonesia's 2015 forest fires disaster...

Indonesia is burning - but how responsible is the palm oil industry? By Niamh Michail+, 24-Nov-2015 Indonesia’s forests are being ravaged by forest and peatland fires that are sparking a public health and environmental crisis – but how responsible is the palm oil industry?

GAPKI Wants Palm Oil to be Listed as a Strategic Commodity TEMPO.CO, 26 November, 2015 Jakarta - The Head of Indonesia's Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki), Joko Supriyono, has asked Vice President Jusuf Kalla to list palm oil as a strategic commodity. According to Supriyono, the palm oil industry is a significant contributor to Indonesia's economic growth - for it provides jobs and livelihoods for at least four million Indonesians. Furthermore, continued Supriyono, the palm oil industry has played a significant role in helping the government to eradicate poverty and develop rural areas. Supriyono said that Indonesia's palm oil industry generates some US$21 billion in foreign exchange, and forms 13,4 percent of Indonesia's total exports - making it the second largest source of foreign exchange, only behind oil-and-gas exports...

Indonesian Paper Giants Commit Over $100M Towards Forest, Peatland Restoration December 8,  2015 by Hannah Furlong .... Amidst the bustle of COP21, Indonesian forests have received some pretty good news. After weeks of devastating fires, APRIL Group and Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), two of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies, have made strong reforestation commitments.... APRIL Group — which just this summer announced an end to deforestation as part of a new Sustainable Forest Management Plan — announced this week it would enhance its Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER) project by doubling its size to include 150,000 hectares and investing $100 million over 10 years in peat conservation and restoration activities. The company claims it is the largest investment by a private sector company in a single eco-restoration project in Indonesia. ... and

Palm Oil Giant Commits to Help Indonesia Through Peatland Rehabilitation, Traceability November 17, 2015 by Hannah Furlong... On Monday, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), the world’s second-largest palm oil producer, launched a peatland rehabilitation project in Indonesia and committed to 100 percent traceability to mill by the end of 2015. GAR’s Peat Ecosystem Rehabilitation Project will help develop fire prevention measures and long-term protection of one of the company’s concessions in West Kalimantan. This is the first time a project of this kind has been attempted by a palm oil company. GAR — which in 2014 pledged that all of the palm oil it produces, sources and trades would be deforestation-free — says this new project is an effort to demonstrate how businesses can combine conservation and economic development in practice. ...

World’s second largest palm oil producer makes sustainability pledge By Simon Pitman+, 18-Nov-2015 Golden Agri-Resources, the world’s second biggest producer of palm oil, has agreed to re-engage with The Forest Trust in an effort to improve its sustainability profile.

Palm oil producer launches peatland protection project in Indonesia By Michael HURLEY, 23-Nov-2015 A palm oil producer’s pledge to rehabilitate peatland in Indonesia will provide momentum for industry-wide change, it says.

Sign of optimism as Jakarta talks aim to stop smoke from forest fires BY JENNIFER GOMEZ Published: 23 November 2015 - See more at:
Illegally planted palm oil already growing on burnt land in Indonesia  by Kate Lamb 6 November 2015  Saplings growing on slash and burn land in central Kalimantan in an area public maps suggest has no palm oil concession, say Greenpeace. Burned peatland and forest remains, planted with oil palm seedlings     Indonesian police designates a crime scene: Burned peatland and forest remains, planted with oil palm seedlings, near the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary west of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. Photograph: Ardiles Rante/Greenpeace

NZ linked to destruction in SE Asia, Greenpeace says 12 November 2015 by Kate Gudsell - environment reporter  Greenpeace says a company which intends to use Otago fertiliser on its palm oil plantations is "very much linked" to destructive fires in south east Asia - a claim the company disputes,-greenpeace-says

Malaysia Govt has chosen new company to provide PM2.5 technology By:  Rajina Dhillon; ... “What we will have later is a machine that can measure sea water pollution and river water pollution in addition to air pollution,” he told reporters at a press conference at Sime Darby Convention Centre here today. The appointment of a new company comes following the expiry of current contract holder, Progressive Impact Corporation Berhad (Picorp) in 2016. Picorp recently said that it brought the PM2.5 technology from the United States and owned three of these units, which were currently in use. It added that the PM2.5 technology had been available in Malaysia for the past three years now. When asked to comment on this and why Picorp’s technology was not used, Wan Junaidi said the government already made its decision on a company. ...

Smear campaign against Indonesian palm oil underway: GAPKI, Jakarta | National | Mon, October 26 2015 - See more at: 

Data on Land Burning Based on Wilmar`s Presentation: Walhi  18 October, 2015 TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Zenzi Suhadi, a forest campaign manager at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said that Walhi’s data showing 27 companies that were allegedly involved in forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan was based on Wilmar Group’s presentation in Riau on July 2015. “So, it wasn’t a wild accusation. The data contains the list of subsidiary companies and CPO suppliers introduced by Wilmar that we verified on the field,” Zenzi told Tempo in a telephone conversation on Saturday, October 17, 2015. According to Zenzi, as one of the largest CPO companies in Indonesia, Wilmar should have been transparent in running its business and verifying its subsidiary companies and suppliers involved in production activities. Zenzi billed Wilmar’s commitment announced in 2013 that the company would not be involved in land and forest burning. Therefore, Zenzi questioned Wilmar’s commitment when the company denied its involvement with the suppliers as hotspots occurred Riau, Jambi, Central Kalimantan and South Sumatra. “As a go public company, Wilmar clearly has become a part of the suppliers. Therefore, we declared that Wilmar was involved,” Zenzi added...

Why India and China Are Key to Ending Asia's Haze by Adam Minter, Bloomberg | Updated: October 17, 2015

'It's not just haze, it's noxious smoke' 30.10.2015  - A look at Indonesia's forest fires - As Southeast Asia's haze crisis makes global headlines, DW speaks to CIFOR scientist Louis Verchot about the health and environmental impact of some of the worst fires Indonesia has seen in two decades. ...

CIFOR links:

30 November 2015: Poll by YouGov - most Asians blame Indonesian government and palm oil producers for haze, WWF ‘You breathe what you buy’ campaign targets regional consumers, The Jakarta Post on the "test of palm oil dominance"

Most Asians blame Indonesian government and palm oil producers for haze, less companies that use palm oil in their products, Nov 2015; .... In poll by YouGov of 7,536 people across the region from 17 to 23 November, 18 per cent said they thought palm oil-using companies, which include the likes of Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Mondelez and Kellogg’s, that produce household names such as Oreo’s cookies, Lays crisps and Lifebuoy soap, are responsible for the haze. Most people (63 per cent) said palm oil companies and the Indonesian government (62 per cent) are to blame. The survey did not ask respondents if they felt themselves responsible as consumers of brands containing palm oil. When asked who was to blame for starting the fires, 58 per cent said the palm oil companies, 48 per cent said farmers and 44 per cent suggested they were caused by the dry weather.... Green groups launched a campaign to pressure palm-oil using brands into switching to sustainably sourced palm oil just before the annual burning started in July. The ‘You breathe what you buy’ campaign asked Singaporeans to sign a petition pledging their support for companies that used haze-free palm oil. The campaign aimed for 50,000 signatures, and has of today has reached just over the 13,200 mark....

Forest fires and smoke, a test of palm oil dominance by Adisti Sukma Sawitri, The Jakarta Post Published: 25 November 2015 7:35 AM The forest fire predicament has receded as rain started to fall in many regions in recent weeks. Will the government’s sense of urgency in tackling the annual problem also recede? One may fear so. Despite months of serious efforts to address the fires, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration hasn’t established concrete measures to stop the expansion of oil palm plantations through slash-and-burn practices, the main cause of the problem. It is not rocket science to understand why that is.... Indonesia is home to the world’s greatest extent of oil palm plantations, covering 11 million hectares of land and producing more than 33 million tons of palm oil last year, and generating jobs for millions of people. But as the industry grows, it has become too large to allow arbitrary expansion; damaging business practices, such as the burning method, contribute heavily to the smoke that has brought suffering to entire provinces and neighbouring countries. Consumer countries are stepping up action to encourage palm oil producers, including Indonesia, to address the environmental concerns of expansion, and the European Union has pledged to stop buying palm oil resulting from deforestation by 2020. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a global body of plantation companies, refiners, consumers and environmental groups, has also set higher sustainability standards, including requirements of no deforestation, no peatland development and guarantees of indigenous people’s rights. There have been attempts to resist this pressure. The newly established Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries, which the Indonesian government initiated along with its Malaysian counterpart, aims to regulate production and prices and create standards that take into account the economic goals of producers. As its first move, the council has demanded that palm oil companies cancel their no-deforestation pledge, also known as the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge. But for how long can Indonesia and Malaysia exclude themselves from the global trade?.... In the case of our forest fires, it will take more than social programs to ensure the welfare of local people; it takes better planning, a revolution in expansion practices to assure that the industry can support welfare in the short and long terms. Smoke is a test for Indonesia as a palm oil producer, a test to see whether it can take a leading position and boost the welfare of its citizens, who currently bear the brunt of environmental degradation and poor living conditions. With all the controls that the country has as a producing giant, the question is whether it wants to pass that test. – The Jakarta Post, November 25, 2015. - See more at:

Felda puts US$680 million Eagle High stake deal on hold  30 November 2015 1:58 PM; .....Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd, the world's No. 3 palm plantation operator, has put on hold a planned US$680 million (RM2.8 billion) purchase in Indonesia after shareholders criticised the deal as too expensive and market conditions deteriorated, sources directly involved with the matter said. - See more at:

Editor: Some observers point to Felda/FGV - Eagle High being prominently part of the CPOPC announcement. So, the question is whether the new apparent "on hold" status of the deal will impact on any aspect of CPOPC.

26 November 2015: Haze control and oil palm smallholders by Khor, Saravanamuttu & Augustin - The Habibie Center

Haze control and oil palm smallholders by Khor, Saravanamuttu & Augustin - article published by The Habibie Center; In view of the tragedy of the Sumatra-Kalimantan fire haze-smoke crisis of 2015 we have collected our thoughts on this complex issue by focusing tightly on the issues at origin: poverty and development policy, extension services (and limited applied knowledge on peat development and management methods) and supply-chains in the fire zones.

14 November 2015: Smallholders need more credit along with tougher regulations says farmer group

Indonesia's action on haze won't stop burning: palm farmers group Nov 12, 2015 By Bernadette Christina and Michael Taylor; Green groups and palm oil plantation firms say a 2009 law that allows smallholder farmers to use slash-and-burn practices to clear land for agricultural purposes is a key cause of the annual fires when the burning gets out of control. "Burning will still happen because the government hasn't changed the regulations," Mansuetus Darto, secretariat at the Indonesian Oil Palm Smallholders Union told Reuters on Thursday.... Jakarta has said it would review laws that allow farmers to burn up to two hectares (five acres), and last week sent letters to plantation firms and provincial governments demanding peatland conversion is immediately halted.... Previously, the government ordered four companies to suspend operations for allegedly causing forest fires and revoked the land licenses of three other firms.... Darto, however, said the government needed to implement stricter regulations  o stop burning and give smallholders, who account for 40 percent of Indonesian palm oil output, better access to credit so they could afford to clear land using best practices. His group has 48,000 members, mostly in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Using tractors, chainsaws or hand tools is the most environmentally friendly way to clear forest areas approved for development, say forestry groups, but these methods are more expensive and time-consuming than fires...Smallholder farmers have also been hit hard by a drop in palm oil benchmark prices, which touched a near six-and-a-half year low earlier this year. To help, the Indonesian government wants major palm oil companies to row back on their historic "no deforestation" pledges made last year. The government says the pledges hurt smallholder producers who cannot afford to adopt sustainable forestry practices and are blocked from the supply chain.... Darto rejected this and said that the real reason why larger companies were not buying from smallholders was due to weak palm prices, not the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP). The IPOP pledges made by major firms would in fact limit expansion to help bolster palm prices, while strengthening the relationship between his members and big plantations, he said. "IPOP will benefit the farmers," Darto added. "Companies won't expand their areas and this means they will instead increase cooperation with farmers to increase productivity."

Palm Oil from Freshly-Burned Land: Coming to a Grocery Store Near You by Nithin Coca on Friday, Nov 13th, 2015

3 November 2015: Looking back at Haze 2013 that triggered off Singapore action

Great haze II - the karmic winds of change? [report]


2 November 2015: Rains dousing forest fires, 2 million hectares burnt, 1/2 million Indonesians suffer respiratory illnesses, impacts and policy implications, and CIFOR articles. Some recommend re-wet of peat zones and restore to original vegetation, but how feasible is this on funding and socio-political front?

Editor's note: Some policy questions. How do you reduce current cultivation of peatlands - moving individual and corporate farmers away? Relocation and compensation? How do you restore degraded peatlands? Where is the funding? GAPKI - Indonesia palm oil fears smear campaign - is that a doctored image then?

On impacts

Rains Douse Indonesia Forest Fires to Curb Southeast Asia Haze  by Fitri Wulandari and Yudith Ho  October 30, 2015

Indonesia Fires Burn Estimated 2.09 Million Hectares: Agency  2015-10-30 03:55:16.967 GMT  By Fitri Wulandari  (Bloomberg) -- Forest and land fires from July 1 to Oct. 20  have burned est. 2.09m hectares of land in Indonesia, Parwati  Sofan, the head of environment and disaster mitigation at
Indonesia’s aeronautics and space agency, or LAPAN, tells  reporters on Friday....

Haze From Indonesian Fires Spreads - President Widodo cuts short his U.S. visit to manage environmental crisis that has enveloped the capital, Jakarta; By  Ben Otto   Updated Oct. 27, 2015 6:18 a.m. ET    JAKARTA—Indonesia’s leader cut short his U.S. trip Tuesday, opting to skip meeting Silicon Valley executives to help manage an environmental crisis at home caused by the worst agricultural fires in years. President Joko Widodo’s decision underscored the gravity of the growing disaster, as haze from the weeks-old fires spread in recent days to cover three-quarters of Indonesia’s territory, including the capital. It also has led to flight cancellations in Thailand and health warnings in the Philippines. Mr. Widodo, who on Monday in Washington signaled his country’s intent to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, was to travel to California to meet with executives from Apple, Google and other companies. His office said that instead he would depart for Sumatra or Borneo, the two hardest-hit islands at home.... More than 40 million people on Sumatra and Borneo alone were exposed to the toxic haze, the government said. More than 500,000 people in Indonesia have sought treatment for respiratory problems since the fires began in September....“This is an amazing crime against humanity,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s national disaster agency. He said it was unlikely the fires could be put out in the next two weeks.... Philippines President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday that there was little to be gained in castigating Indonesia for the pollution. He said he would rather help them address the problem “rather than concentrate on apportioning blame.”.... Scientists at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research said the cost could reach about $14 billion in environmental damage, health costs, lost business and other factors.

Prolonged haze tortures kids Hasyim Widhiarto, Apriadi Gunawan and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post, Palangkaraya/Medan/Padang | Headlines | Tue, October 27 2015, 6:08 PM; Children are the most vulnerable in the midst of Indonesia’s ongoing haze crisis, which has severely disrupted their education and threatened their health.In Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, the local administration’s decision to close down schools for almost five weeks over the past two months has received a mixed reaction from teachers and parents.Susiati, who teaches first grade students at SDN 6 Pahandut state elementary school, said she had received complaints from several parents who considered the policy, aimed at minimizing negative health impacts from the thickening haze in the city, ineffective and detrimental to their children’s development. - See more at:

Policy issues - local legislative processes, peatland moratorium

Ambank news review: .... About 20% of the fires occurred in timber forests while another 20% occurred on plantation land. Indonesia expects improving rainfall to douse the fires by end-November or early-December. Indonesia may reclaim unused land concessions from forest fire areas.... Jakarta Globe quoted an Indonesian minister as saying that although revisions to the environmental law must be made, a designated taskforce on haze is unnecessary... Under the 2009 Law on Environmental Protection and Management in Indonesia, companies are allowed to burn two hectares of land to clear land.

Indonesia May Take Up to a Decade to Curb Annual Land Fires by  Sterling Wong October 27, 2015; Laws created at the local level needed to tackle issue. Widodo cuts short U.S. visit as haze engulfs Indonesia; Indonesia may take as long as a decade to permanently curb the plantation land-burning that sends choking smog across swathes of Southeast Asia each year, according to a research fellow at Nanyang Technological University. Although Indonesia has ratified a regional agreement committing it to act to reduce the smoke “haze” caused by the land fires, the law has yet to be enacted locally in its districts, said Jonatan Anderias Lassa, a research fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies at the Singapore university. “They need to bring down that law into local legislative processes,” Lassa told reporters in Singapore on Monday, adding that a division of resources between central and local governments was also required. “It hasn’t been done, and it takes five to 10 years to do that.”...Lassa estimates that an initial investment of $10 to $20 million could help the Indonesian government kick start the enactment of locally relevant legislation in the 211 affected districts on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan....

Indonesia's Widodo Talks Climate With Obama as Peat Fires Rage  by Angela Greiling Keane and Toluse Olorunnipa October 27, 2015; ... The fires have challenged Jokowi’s government and brought the issue of climate change to the forefront less than two months before a United Nations conference in Paris intended to conclude an agreement on global warming. Obama said Monday that large nations such as the U.S. and Indonesia must work toward the strongest possible emissions targets. Jokowi said Friday he would freeze new permits for development of palm oil on peat lands. Jokowi was to tout that action along with other steps he has taken to curb carbon pollution during his meeting with Obama, said Wimar Witoelar, a climate consultant. At the same time, the Widodo government has been avoiding using the term “climate change,” which is seen by many Indonesians as a “product of the West,” Witoelar told reporters....

Jokowi calls for peatland moratorium after 10 killed by haze Dandy Koswaraputra, | National | Fri, October 23 2015, 1:39 PM - See more at:

On partners to help on haze

US, RI partner to address forest fires, haze, Jakarta | National | Mon, October 26 2015, 6:37 PM; The $2.75 million assistance package from the US includes United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) funding to help the Indonesian government to expand their health care centers' ability to respond to haze-related respiratory illnesses. The funding will also be used to support Indonesia’s efforts to raise public awareness of hazards associated with haze in the country. - See more at:

Indonesia brings in Russian aircraft to tackle haze Edna Tarigan,, Jakarta | National | Tue, October 20 2015, 9:24 PM; Malaysia and Australia's aid to Indonesia in lending water bombing aircraft ended on Monday. So, Indonesia turned to Russia for more help to tackle the haze crisis.Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Tuesday that Bombardier aircraft from Malaysia and Hercules aircraft from Australia had returned to their respective countries."They have ended their five-day mission. There is only Chinook Mustang helicopter conducting water bombing in South Sumatra,” Sutopo said in a statement sent to on Tuesday.He said there are currently 11 helicopters and airplanes, ten from Indonesia and one from Singapore for water bombing and cloud seeding."To increase the water bombing efforts, the government brought in two units of amphibi aircraft Beriev Be-200 along with 20 crew from Russia. They will land on Wednesday morning in Palembang," he said, adding that Russian Embassy officials have arrived in Palembang.Sutopo explained that the the Be-200 plane is a legendary amphibious water bombing aircraft with a 12,000 liter capacity. Its ability includes taking water from rivers, lakes and the sea."Indonesia used this type of aircraft in the 2007 forest and land fires," he said. - See more at:

CIFOR articles

DG’s Column, Preventing fire & haze: sustainable solutions for Indonesian peatlands - What can we do to break the cycle of the haze over the long term? How might we address the underlying drivers and achieve sustainable solutions?  by Peter Holmgren @pholmgren 1 November 2015 about 10 hours ago; From a solutions perspective, we may set ourselves up for failure if we start by trying to answer the environmental concerns. It may be more constructive to view reduced impact on climate and environment as a great and much-needed co-benefit to solutions to health, poverty, food and governance issues....Solving the underlying factors will take time. Now is the time to decide on proper actions for the long term, before the haze and attention blows over.... At the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), we are discussing ways forward, together with partners. We have come to a few starting points with a common denominator that fire and haze need to be raised to a higher level and address development more broadly.... Going forward, we identify a range of essential direct outcomes we should strive for, including: •Drastically reduced conversion of forests into agriculture •Reduced use of fire in agriculture •Overall reduction of cultivation on peatlands •Improved opportunities for rural livelihoods and income •Improved markets and value chains for sustainable products •Restoration of degraded peatlands...

Indonesia on fire again … and again? The fires in Indonesia have made global headlines—but this is a decades-old, recurring problem that needs long-term solutions. by Suzanna Anderson 29 Oct 2015; The fires in Indonesia have been raging for more than two months, creating a toxic haze that has blanketed much of the country and spread across  neighboring regions. Rains in the past week have provided a little welcome relief, but the crisis is far from over. Most of the fires in Central Kalimantan are blazing in former peatland forests, which have been drained, cleared and burned for oil palm and agriculture, at large and small scales.  The dried-out peat ignites easily and burns underground; the fire then creeps along under the surface. Peatlands are made up of decomposed forest debris. They have been around for thousands of years and are home to thousands of plants and animals, including endangered keystone species such as the orangutan....

Video - Indonesia on fire. Join scientists as they visit the burning peatland in Central Kalimantan and describe the causes and effects. by Center for International Forestry Research @cifor 30 Oct 2015

Life amid the fires and haze of Central Kalimantan - A visual journey through smoke-covered landscapes and villages by Center for International Forestry Research @cifor 27 Oct 2015 In Central Kalimantan, schoolchildren are missing classes, farmers are losing their harvests, and orangutans are losing their homes. The effects of the fires and smoke – among the worst seen in Southeast Asia in years – are far-reaching and devastating. During a trip to Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan in mid-October 2015, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and their partners saw and documented just some of the ways that communities, wildlife, the environment and the economy are being affected. For the full album, visit our Flickr page: Fire and Haze, Central Kalimantan:

31 October 2015: Protecting peatland, Gapki - smear campaign against palm oil industry, pictures showing young palm trees planted on the newly burned forest are viral on social media

Protecting peatland – The Jakarta Post Published: 31 October 2015 8:02 AM President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s special instruction to the environment and forestry minister last week to stop issuing new licenses for peatland cultivation and to conduct an overall review of all peatland-use permits is a strategic part of the effort to prevent forest and land fires and the hazardous air pollution they cause. He also stated at the Cabinet meeting last Friday that damaged peatland must be rehabilitated, virgin peatland must not be opened for any purpose and all involved in the fight against forest and land fires must use the same map to prevent overlaps. To put it bluntly, companies can no longer convert active forests or peatland areas into monoculture plantations such as acacia for pulp and oil palm plantations... Recent research by forestry scientists at the Bogor-based Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor) found that the main cause of hazardous haze in Riau came from burning dried and deforested peatland, and not just the slashing-and-burning of forested areas, as commonly thought. The study found that peat swamps in their natural state were resistant to fire because they are damp underground, but can be highly flammable when they dry out and become degraded. Research by Greenpeace has also revealed that left in its natural waterlogged condition, peatland rarely burns. Untouched tropical rainforest is similarly fire-resistant. However, two decades of forest and peatland destruction by the plantation sector have turned parts of Indonesia into a giant tinderbox. - See more at:

A smear campaign against the national palm-oil industry is underway, the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) has claimed, as pictures went viral on social media showing young palm trees planted on the newly burned forest. GAPKI’s head of land and spatial division Eddy Martono said that the smear campaign had been launched against the palm oil industry as it was the most profitable and economical vegetable-oil, with productivity level of six tons per hectare, far beyond the soy bean's productivity at one ton per hectare. "The smoke is still rising, but the palm trees have already been planted. This is very strange. Based on cultivation techniques, it is not possible to plant the young palm trees [on such land], as they would wither. Something is hidden, and I have no idea what it is," he said as quoted by on Sunday. -

See more at:

Haze: 3-day downpour clears the air over Kalimantan and Sumatra Oct 30, 2015 by Francis Chan and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja; Three consecutive days of rainfall over Kalimantan and Sumatra starting on Tuesday (Oct 27) have resulted in clear skies and cleaner air in the two regions.... A week ago, South Sumatra had 703 hot spots and Kalimantan had 905. The improved visibility was a relief for the local aviation industry which had to deal with thousands of flight cancellations and delays due to the haze.... Palangkaraya, for most of the day, remained under the 116 PSI level, the moderate range. It was a vast improvement from the four-digit readings that for weeks were the norm for the city in Central Kalimantan.

28 October 2015: Rains arrive (they were due end Oct / early Nov) and haze abates 

Rain in Indonesia Dampens Forest Fires That Spread Toxic Haze By JOE COCHRANEOCT. 28, 2015; Torrential rains overnight on Tuesday in the regions of Sumatra and Kalimantan — where forest fires have been raging for weeks, sickening hundreds of thousands of people — have significantly reduced the size and number of fires, said Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs. “I hope we have turned the corner,” he said in an interview. “If the rain continues over the next five days, we are past this.”...He said the number of “hot spots,” areas where satellite imagery shows heavy forest fires, had dropped to 291 on Wednesday from 1,578 on Monday because of the heavy rains...Seventeen Indonesian civilians have died from respiratory illnesses caused by the haze, as well as one firefighter in an operational accident, Mr. Luhut said....

Widespread shower activities in the region have helped to subdue the land fires in Kalimantan. However, some smoke haze was still observed in parts of Sumatra. Updated 7:46 PM 29 Oct

25 October 2015: Protests  in Medan and Riau - calling for arrest of big investors, Indonesia estimates 43 million people breathing in haze toxic fumes, Kalimantan residents plan class action suit, Jokowi calls peatland moratorium and hints at company crackdown, Singapore minister says "moral need to act decisively on haze," plantations talk about their effort to battle fires to Mongabay, legal considerations prevent state of emergency says Luhut

Protests against land, forest fires increase as haze worsens Apriadi Gunawan and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post, Medan/Pekanbaru | Archipelago | Sat, October 24 2015, 3:37 PM; ....Kristin Matondang of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Medan branch said the haze blanketing Medan and surrounding regions came from Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra as no hot spots had been detected in North Sumatra.“At 1 p.m. the concentration of particulate matter [PM10] in Medan was 549.12 µg/m³, much higher than the normal concentration of 150 µg/m³,” Kristin said on Friday.The conditions moved some community groups to stage protests across Medan.The Alliance of North Sumatra People Against Haze, for example, staged a rally at Bundaran Majestik by conducting a theatrical performance entitled Burned Forest People.A similar rally was staged by dozens of activists from Satria Hijau (Green Knights) at Merdeka Square, demanding the government get rid of the haze.“We have been suffering for months because of the thickening haze,” said Fitri, a protester.Protests were also widespread in neighboring Riau province as thousands of university students, teachers and lecturers staged a rally at the governor’s office demanding an end to the haze problems. They urged the government to arrest owners of big companies operating in Riau alleged to be involved in forest and land fires in the region. “They are big investors that have destroyed forests in Riau. They have caused the haze in Riau,” Hendri Marhadi, a protester, said at the rally.Meanwhile, some 3,000 teachers in Pekanbaru grouped under the Teachers’ Forum Against Haze urged the government to declare the haze a national disaster as it had claimed lives. - See more at:

EvakuasiKami / Evacuate Us on Twitter

Indonesia haze: Child evacuation plan prepared  23 October 2015
Indonesia readies warships for haze evacuation The government has decided to send ships to haze affected provinces to evacuate victims, especially children and women, if necessary. POSTED: 24 Oct 2015 16:48...

Jokowi calls for peatland moratorium after 10 killed by haze Dandy Koswaraputra, | National | Fri, October 23 2015, 1:39 PM; ...The president said that a one-map policy must be implemented to overcome the disaster as soon as possible, and at the same time reviewing concessions in all peatland areas.....“The government should fully protect peatland, including restoring degraded peatland,” Bustar Maitar, the global head for the Indonesia Forest Campaign in Greenpeace International, told to Greenpeace, the managing director at Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) Aida Greenbury said that the moratorium alone would not be a solution.According to Aida, the solution is a landscape approach, which use science to determine hydrology management and to ensure green growth while mitigating environmental risks and engaging and embracing the community in the supply chain, such as in agroforestry programs. - See more at:

Plantation companies challenged by haze-causing fires in Indonesia, 14th October 2015 / Rhett A. Butler, Six major plantation companies spoke with Mongabay about their efforts to battle haze-causing fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan...... (Mongabay notes that) Fire is a hugely complex issue and it involves the rights of local communities, illegal activity by small enterprises often with political links and fundamental complexities over land use rights, maps, ownership and protection.... (Wilmar says) While we are committed to No Burning, we recognize that slash-and-burn practices remain rampant among small-scale farmers and local communities. According to Global Forest Watch, research has found that majority of fires on agricultural land occur outside of oil palm concessions, and these are often managed by small companies and small-scale farmers. Clearing land by mechanical means cost significantly more, compared to using fire which is the most cost-effective way of clearing land for them. This often leads to uncontrolled fires that may inevitably spread to our plantations or those of our suppliers."

Is Indonesia's fire crisis connected to the palm oil in our snack food? by Lindsey Allen is the Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network; ....Companies like APP are quick to accuse small farmers and villagers of lighting many of the fires. Even if that is true, the displacement of communities and the drainage of peatlands by large scale plantation companies is ultimately responsible for the allowing these fires to take place. Communities whose forest-dependent subsistence livelihoods have been disrupted by plantation development often turn to clearing what land they can find, using the only cost-effective method available to them: fire.  Solving this crisis is not about fighting fires. Extinguishing thousands of peat blazes across thousands of square miles of remote tropical landscape is hugely expensive and ultimately unfeasible. The only real solution is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. The first and most basic change needed is a total halt to plantation development on peatlands and remaining natural forests. Peat swamp soil is the result of thousands of years of accumulation of organic material. Left alone, it is one of the most effective landscapes on earth for sequestering carbon. But when drained and ignited, it releases a carbon bomb into the atmosphere....

Luhut Pandjaitan: Kabut Asap Belum Jadi Bencana Nasional Jumat, 23 Oktober 2015 09:34 WIB;   “Kita tidak mau membicarakan tentang bencana nasional karena ini menyangkut masalah hukum. Tapi bisa kami pastikan penanganannya `all out`, mengerahkan segala sumber daya, sesuai perintah Presiden Joko Widodo”

Jokowi hints at company crackdown as Kalimantan residents prepare haze class action suit 21st October 2015 / Mongabay Haze Beat  • Residents in West Kalimantan have banded together to file a lawsuit against the government over pollution. • Jokowi has said companies need to take "greater responsibility." • An Indonesian resort plans to offer "more underwater activities" to manage the impact of annual pollution from fires and hotspots. ...Singapore’s education ministry is working with the health ministry and environment agency on revised education guidelines amid haze following a petition by a parent. The petition calls on the education ministry to ensure adequate filtration in classrooms, educate children in the correct use of N95 face masks and conduct non-essential lessons via e-learning..... The Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires (APHI) said on Tuesday it had lobbied the government to provide assistance to the Indonesian companies being sued under Singapore’s transboundary pollution law. “This should be helped by diplomacy,” APHI’s vice chairman said. “Don’t let the companies be subjected to this alone.”...

Moral need to act decisively on haze, says Ng Eng Hen  Published Oct 25, 2015, 5:00 am SGT; ...The strongest motivation to resolve this year's transboundary haze crisis - statistically proven to be the worst in a decade - must be a moral one, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has said. And those who own or use the land for commercial purposes must bear responsibility for the fires raging over them, Dr Ng added yesterday, as he welcomed the Singapore firefighting assistance team that returned home after a two-week mission to Indonesia. ...  Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency estimates that more than 43 million people in the country are breathing in the toxic fumes from the fires,

The Trouble with Indonesia-Singapore Relations - Bilateral ties continue to face some familiar challenges.  By Barry Desker October 21, 2015

21 October 2015: South Sumatra residents $3.5 billion class action suit against plantation giants and world dominant palm oil trader Wilmar to come

Editor's note: Media has extensive coverage of haze including review of causes immediate and long-term. Public opinion in KL and Singapore is pretty poorly against the haze into the second month of high air pollution and locals disturbed by recent predictions this can last into early 2016. I had a quick look at found an official cited figure of 1.7 million hectares burning around 10 October. Question arises of whether palm oil sustainability spending has been poorly directed all these years.

South Sumatra residents to file class action suit against firms causing haze - The companies suspected of burning land and causing transboundary haze are Asia Agri, Golden Agri Resources, Wilmar, Sime Darby, and Asia Pulp and Paper. By Saifulbahri Ismail POSTED: 06 Oct 2015 19:39  UPDATED: 09 Oct 2015 10:26; JAKARTA: A group of Indonesian residents in Jambi, South Sumatra are in the final stages of preparing a class action lawsuit against five companies responsible for the forest fires that have caused massive air pollution in Indonesia and across the region. They are expected to serve notice to these companies this month....According to reports, thousands of people living in Jambi have developed respiratory infections after breathing the acrid air, while others have suffered lost income.... They are claiming a total of 51 trillion rupiah (US$3.5 billion) in losses."There are two kinds of losses: Firstly, losses that can be calculated to around 7 trillion rupiah, the companies have to compensate that. There is also the cost of recovering the land which has been destroyed, and we have calculated that to be 44 trillion rupiah," said Mr Musri.The Indonesian Forum for the Environment or Walhi, is helping the plaintiffs with their lawsuit. Walhi has conducted its own legal battle against companies and acknowledges it faces a challenge ahead...."Walhi won its claim during the forest fires which destroyed some 11.6 million hectares in 1998, and one more in 2000 in South Kalimantan,” said Mr Mukri Fatriani, an ecology disaster campaigner from Walhi. “From then on, 14 years have passed and we have not won any other claims." Walhi said that even though there are clear laws, these have not been enforced. Those taking the companies to court are confident of getting a positive result..... "The 2015 incident is different from earlier incidents. This year is extraordinary,” said Mr Musri. “Indonesia and our neighbours Malaysia and Singapore are directly affected. It wasn’t as bad before. So, this is what gives us energy to fight.... “Secondly, I’m confident that because this claim is from the desire of the community, we will try. If you ask what our chances are, the law has to improve to answer the haze problem objectively, and I'm confident we can win this legal battle."....


19 October 2015: Step-down on smallholder interest, illegal palm oil mills in Indonesia, Indon-Malaysia cooperation, Singapore haze clampdown (update)

Editor's note: Discussion in palm oil circles on the Indonesia-Malaysia cooperation intention and the call to water down IPOP and ISPO to accommodate smallholders (a significant portion without legal land tenure; and thus to regularize the independent mills and FFB dealers serving the smallholders).

The origins of the push is pointed out as the President of Indonesia's office and specialists agree that the traditional bureaucracies of Indonesia and Malaysia are not at the forefront of this new effort. What's different is that it comes with Indonesia impetus, whereas previous bilateral efforts petered out on lack of Indonesia interest. Unusually, it also came along with a corporate presence - FGV and Eagle High deal. Interesting in news reports is the Coordinating Maritime Minister of Indonesia being a prominent spokesperson of the palm oil G2G deal. The harmonization of ISPO and MSPO would not be an easy feat - one being mandatory and the other voluntary. And this seems quite mixed up in the apparent pressure on the giant plantations groups at IPOP assuring on buying from smallholders. Also, noteworthy is that Pak Dr. Herdradjat (ex Director of Estate Crops at Ministry of Agriculture) takes over Ibu Dr. Rosediana Suharto's role at ISPO quite suddenly.

Notable too is the issue "illegal palm oil mills" in Indonesia - notably 70 in Riau according to a news report. Question: While the big plantations slow under the sustainability spotlight, who is funding the smallholder push? Illegal mils (by definition independent mills are illegal in Indonesia) and FFB dealers (currently not regulated)? Jakarta experts say that these mills may have a license issued by provincial politicians or Bupati, but lack a national level license. It is notable in ISPO's presentation at PIPOC that it refers to this sector of independent/"illegal" mills. Critics of non-certification traceability have been asking what if they trace to illegal sources and what is the basis of their verification?

Singapore is moving very vocally to "haze-free" products in pulp and paper and also mulling how to resolve issues in palm oil certification of its products with active local NGOs moving on it. Banks are also being questioned on their role in funding palm oil expansion in Indonesia - notably a financing link to a plantation company caught up in the haze fires was disclosed. Singapore's very middle class population is becoming increasingly sensitized to palm oil on nutrition and air pollution worries.
source: Singapore Straits Times graphic on haze and health

This posting is a big review of one month's of headlines.

Notable reads

Forest encroachment by Gemal Abdel Nasser P. August 6 2015 Riau Province Legislative Council found 70 illegal palm oil mills in Riau,
Singapore legal experts set out legal parameters of transboundary haze pollution....  By Invitation - The haze, international law and global cooperation by S. Jayakumar and Tommy Koh Published Oct 6, 2015, 5:00 am SGT
Fire & haze in Indonesia: Research and resources 9 Oct 2015 ; Forest fires occur in Indonesia every dry season. However, the haze that spreads to other countries is no longer restricted to drought years, and has become increasingly frequent due to ongoing deforestation of peatlands – with profound health and economic impacts across Southeast Asia. There are no easy solutions. The complex factors involved in every fire mean the problem goes far beyond who actually lights the match. That’s why the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has collected its work on fire and haze in Southeast Asia. The new site explains the context, impacts and history of this ongoing crisis – drawing upon cutting edge science and research. See the full collection at

US-Canada model could hold lessons for haze fight Published  Oct 16, 2015, 5:00 am SGT Melissa Sim US Correspondent In Washington; When it comes to managing forest fires and the resulting transboundary haze, Indonesia and the region can learn from countries such as Canada and the United States, said experts in the field. The two countries often face transboundary haze issues of their own when smoke from large forest fires drifts across national borders, said Dr Nigel Sizer, global director of the forests programme at Washington, DC-based think-tank World Resources Institute. To deal with the issue, the two countries signed the Canada/ United States Reciprocal Forest Fire Fighting Arrangement (Canus), which lays out the conditions under which resources can be shared, how resources will be made available and what costs are involved, said Dr Sizer.

This is a deadly consequence of forest destruction by palm oil & paper companies. — Greenpeace UK (@GreenpeaceUK)...

New Palm Oil Council Abolishes 'No Deforestation' Pledge  Published 14 October 2015; The production of palm oil has long been criticized by environmentalists, mainly because mass land and forests must be cleared for its production. A new palm oil council is being established in Indonesia and Malaysia to create a joint set of standards for the industry, which will effectively abolish a previous “no deforestation” pledge made by major palm oil companies in the region, Reuters reported Wednesday.  Palm oil companies in Indonesia made the historic pledges at a climate change summit last year. After feeling international pressure to adopt better practices, some of the biggest palm oil companies in the region – including Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources and Wilmar International – signed the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge. However, according to the Indonesian government these promises are hurting smallholders who cannot afford to adopt to the sustainable practices...

Indonesia to Stop Complying with European Union's Palm Oil Standards  12 October 2015 The Indonesian government will (temporarily) stop using sustainability standards designed by the European Union regarding crude palm oil (CPO). Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli said the current strict standards of the European Union hurt the domestic palm oil industry, especially smallholders. Moreover, Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's two largest CPO producers and exporters, are to set up a new intergovernmental palm oil council that will design new rules and standards regarding sustainable palm oil production....Last week it was announced that Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to set up the new palm oil council (called the Council of Palm Oil Producer Countries). This council aims to control the global palm oil supply, stabilize CPO prices and promote sustainable practices in the palm oil industry, partly by harmonizing existing standards of Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) and Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO). Indonesia and Malaysia account for about 85 percent of the world's CPO output. Rizal is confident that demand for Indonesian CPO will not decline due to the moratorium on applying the European Union's palm oil standards. The Indonesian government will lobby the governments of China and India to use the palm oil standards that are to be developed by the Council of Palm Oil Producer Countries (CPOP)....

Editorial: Bold move in palm oil The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Mon, October 12 2015, 8:52 AM; The devil is in the details. This saying is quite relevant for Indonesian and Malaysian officials making preparations for the establishment of a cartel-like organization called the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) that both governments agreed on in Jakarta early this month.It was the first time that both countries, which control about 85 percent of global palm oil production but which have so far been competing fiercely against each other in the international market, agreed on concrete cooperation in controlling the palm oil market, which has been in a slump since last year.Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli, who led the Indonesian delegation at the meeting with Malaysia’s Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Douglas Unggah in Jakarta last week, said the CPOPC would jointly promote the marketing of palm oil and its products, conduct palm oil research and development and harmonize the principles and criteria used for their respective certification of sustainable palm oil.Consumer organizations and international green campaigners that dominate the 10-year old Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) may immediately give a thumbs down to this new organization, given the disappointing performance of a similar organization, the International Tripartite Rubber Council, in propping up the market even though its three members — Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand — control about 70 percent of world supply…

Only India and China Can End Asia's Haze  Oct 15, 2015 12:05 AM EDT By  Adam Minter - The thick haze that’s blanketed much of Southeast Asia for the last month carries the ashy remains of Indonesian forests and peatlands -- burnt in many cases to clear land for producing palm oil, the world’s most popular edible oil. It’s an annual occurrence dating back decades, and this year it’s particularly bad: According to one report, the 2015 fires have emitted enough greenhouse gases to rival Germany’s annual output of CO2. And they’re growing worse....

A new business model for palm oil? The recent haze in Southeast Asia has sparked renewed calls for alternatives to palm oil products. In this interview, Forum for the Future founder Jonathon Porritt tells Eco-Business why the industry - which is also provides thousands of livelihoods worldwide - needs a new business model, not boycotts.  By Vaidehi Shah Friday 16 October 2015

Les multinationales de l'huile de palme plus «vertes» que le gouvernement indonésien Par Claire Fages   Diffusion : lundi 12 octobre 2015

Hazy standards - Southeast Asia’s newest cartel is bad news for endangered animals and people who like to breathe by Steve Mollman October 14, 2015 ; This month Indonesia and Malaysia confirmed the imminent establishment of a palm oil cartel, which they’re billing as a way to ensure price stability and develop downstream industry. But a cartel could help the industry in another way: by allowing them to ignore calls to adopt more environmentally friendly production practices.

Palm oil in your grocery items could be from haze culprits by Jessica Lim Friday, Oct 9, 2015; PAPER products may just be the tip of the iceberg: Many grocery items here could come from plantations that contribute to the haze. In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times yesterday, Stefano Savi from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) said that about half of the products on supermarket shelves here contain palm oil - from toothpaste and cosmetics to bread and frozen french fries.Mr Savi, the global outreach and engagement director of RSPO, a palm oil certification body, added that as much as 80 per cent of global palm oil is uncertified."While we are sure about the origins and the sustainability criteria under which 20 per cent of global palm oil is produced, we are not able to claim the same for the other 80 per cent," he said, adding that the 1,400 fires that happened in Indonesia in the whole of last month were within oil palm plantations. - See more at:

Singapore Banks Debate Rainforest Lending as Smog Blankets City  by   Chanyaporn Chanjaroen and Christopher Langner  October 5, 2015 — 9:22 PM HKTUpdated on October 6, 2015 — 11:27 AM HKT. DBS says it's committed to enhancing its responsible financing. Wilmar says more banks are interested in sustainability issues..... The WWF said that, unlike regulators in Brazil and China, there are no “green” guidelines for lending in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Even so, Singapore’s regular pollution levels are less than one third the average experienced in China, statistics from the World Health Organization show. “Earlier this year, the association, together with several banks, formed a task force to develop a set of industry guidelines that will provide a framework for banks in Singapore to advance responsible financing through a more structured and transparent approach,” said Ong-Ang Ai Boon, a director of the association, adding that details will be announced Thursday. Its 158 members include the three largest Singapore banks and most international lenders operating in the city....“If companies involved in the haze -- either doing the burning themselves, or trading or buying commodities from operators using open burning -- find themselves shut out from certain pools of capital” they may act quicker, said Jeanne Stampe, a finance and commodities specialist at the WWF in Singapore.... DBS Group Holdings Ltd.’s Indonesian unit is the biggest lender to Jakarta-based palm plantation company PT Provident Agro, followed by Bank Mandiri, the company’s semi annual report shows. Provident Agro is the majority owner of PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo, which had its permit suspended last month pending an investigation into forest fires….

Palm Oil Producers Deny Role in Forest Fires, Cite ‘Zero-Burn’ Policy By : Jakarta Globe | on 3:45 AM September 23, 2015; Jakarta. The head of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, or Gapki, on Tuesday came out in support of the country’s palm oil producers against allegations of causing the haze choking several regions, saying producers stand to lose from deliberately lighting forest fires and abide by a “zero burning” policy.  "[Members of Gapki] have implemented sustainability principles," Joko Supriyono, head of Gapki, said as quoted by Antara. He added that buyers of palm oil products demanded eco-friendly practices in the production and supply chain. Producers face heavy sanctions and risk having their permits revoked if found to be clearing land through fire, Joko said. "It is impossible for companies that have invested trillions of rupiahs to take the risk of having their permits revoked just because they want to save the cost of land clearing," he said. Joko cited data from Global Forest Watch, which found that between January and the end of August this year, fires in oil palm concessions stood at 16 percent of all land, as opposed to 65 percent of non-concession land. Separately, the secretary general of the Environment and Forestry Ministry, Bambang Hendroyono, told Antara that the ministry had frozen the operating permits of three companies linked to forest fires. Tempirai Palm Resources and Waringin Agro Jaya in South Sumatra and Langgam Inti Hibrindo in Riau will have their permits frozen. The ministry also froze the permit of Hutani Sola Lestari in Riau province, which held a logging concession permit.

Indonesian peat fires endanger environment - Greenpeace 07 October 2015, 12:10 BST , Peat fires in Indonesia are threatening rare wildlife such as orangutans and causing severe air pollution and carbon emissions, environmentalists have warned.

Forest fires: Jakarta panel wants names  Published Oct 9, 2015, 5:00 am SGT Parliamentary committee orders ministry to name companies whose concession lands were burned illegally by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja  Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta and Amy Chew  Regional Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur

'Half of supermarket products in Singapore contain palm oil' Published Oct 9, 2015, There are 19 firms in Singapore with RSPO certification, including instant-noodle maker Tat Hui Foods and consumer products company Proctor & Gamble. RSPO does not track products of its certified organisations but Mr Savi, who is based in RSPO's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, reckons only a handful of products here have its mark. The low take-up rate could be due to several reasons, he said. Palm oil typically makes up a small part of the formulation of a product, so few firms think it necessary to use sustainable supplies. Distributors who want to sell RSPO-certified products also need to get supplies from RSPO-certified mills and growers."Also, in certain markets, palm oil is not perceived positively, so companies won't want to emphasise that palm oil is in their products at all," he added. About a fifth of the world's palm oil is now certified by RSPO. The Singapore Environment Council (SEC), which has awarded its green label to over 3,000 products here, does not certify palm oil-based products here, but plans to do so by early next year..."Not many firms here have RSPO certification, so we are looking to move into that sector because palm oil is used in so many products," said SEC head of eco-certification Kavickumar Muruganathan.....

Haze: Sime Darby launches hotspot dashboard  Wednesday, Oct 7, 2015

Planters under fire over haze  By OOI TEE CHING - 26 September 2015 @ 10:06 AM PETALING JAYA: For the past month, there has been a steady stream of news of millions of people in Southeast Asia suffering from haze due to the peat fires in Indonesia. There have been criticisms of the Indonesian government despite the authorities’ water-bombing and cloud seeding efforts to beat the peat fire. The ongoing El Nino phenomenon is exacerbating the problem, creating conditions that fan the smouldering flames.

5 Things to Know About the Haze in Southeast Asia - Haze from forest fires in Indonesia is choking parts of the country as well as neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. It has intensified in recent days, putting air pollution at hazardous levels as well as disrupting flights and outdoor activities. In Singapore, schools have closed and exasperated officials continue to offer assistance in fighting the fires. The Indonesian government has said it is taking steps to deal with the problem. Earlier this week it suspended the operating permits of three plantation companies thought to be setting fires to clear land for agriculture, and revoked the license of another. 25 Sep 2015 1:55am By Sara Schonhardt

No Malaysian firms involved in open burning activities in Indonesia - The Association of Plantation Investors of Malaysia confirmed that Malaysian plantation companies practiced zero burning in field clearing work.  POSTED: 26 Sep 2015 00:00

Singapore Environment Council pushes for green procurement in public sector - The Singapore Environment Council is urging the public sector to switch to using environmentally-friendly office supplies, starting with sustainable paper products.  By Liyana Othman  POSTED: 29 Sep 2015 22:57

Hit companies where it hurts by Henry Barlow Oct 1, 2015, 5:58 pm SGT The contributors to the haze appear not primarily to be the larger oil palm plantation operators but relatively small estates, owning perhaps only one or two mills, or independent mills depending largely, if not exclusively, on fruit submitted from smallholders. Many such operators and smallholders have no wish to comply with sustainability principles. Could the Monetary Authority of Singapore instruct banks operating in Singapore not to extend financing and trading facilities to companies linked to mill owners who are not in compliance with agreed sustainability principles as required by the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards? These companies should also be required to provide independently certified reports that they have assisted all mill owners and smallholders submitting fruit to their mills in complying with the sustainability principles of ISPO or RSPO. Other central banks in he region could also adopt similar measures.

Palm Oil Association Rejects Forest Burning Claims 22 September, 2015 | 16:24 WIB  TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) rejected claims that the palm oil industry caused the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan. "The biggest downside was being accused as cause of the fire," said Gapki ChairmanJoko Spriyono, in a press conference, Tuesday, September 22. He claimed that Gapki is commited to zero burning policy or without burning. However, Joko said the fires are inevitable in the hot weather with strong winds. This is a result of the concession bordering with shrub areas. "The land we are often exposed to fire sparks,” he said. Gapki suggested that the government and Parliament to revise Law No. 32 of 2009 on the Protection and Management of the Environment. In Article 69, paragraph 2 of land burning is allowed with a maximum area of ​​two hectares. There is also a Government Regulation and Regulatory Governor that allow people to set fires to clear land. Head of Agricultural and Spatial Gapki, Eddy Martono said there needs to be changes in legislation. “At least there must be a clear SOP (Standarad Operational Procedure)," said Eddy. A Singapore-owned company is suspected as a cause of forest fires in Indonesia. This was stated an official of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry…

Widodo checks up on efforts to tackle forest blazes in Borneo, Updated: 11:00 PM, September 25, 2015 JAKARTA — Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo is heading to Borneo and Sumatra islands to check on efforts to stop forest blazes that are causing pollution across the region.

Cloud hangs over enforcement of anti-haze law  Published Sep 18, 2015, 5:00 am SGT; Inadequate policing in Indonesia, lack of data on land ownership and usage cited as factors

Fighting haze - Boycotting palm oil products not a long-term solution Published Sep 17, 2015, 5:00 am SGT Boycotting palm oil products is not only impractical, but it could also be counterproductive ("To resolve haze woes, boycott palm oil products" by Mr Eric J. Brooks; Tuesday). Oil palm is the highest-yielding edible oilseed crop, with yields of up to nine times that of other oilseeds, like soya and rapeseed.

New disaster chief for Indonesia Published Sep 8, 2015, 5:00 am SGT  2-star navy officer's appointment comes as govt steps up fight against raging fires - Indonesian President Joko Widodo yesterday swore in retired two-star navy officer Willem Rampangilei, 59, who was previously a deputy to the coordinating minister for culture and human development, and in charge of disaster impacts and social affairs.

16 October 2015: REDD and peatland burning

Can REDD save Indonesia’s peatlands from burning?   By Chris Lang 14 October 2015

14 October 2015: Singapore moves on "haze-free" products - apart from wood, paper makers, SEC plans to work with others such as palm oil industry

4 October 2015: Zahid - Jokowi Indonesia’s 3-year plan to combat haze deemed too long, need to improve haze pollution measure, haze kills millions of chickens reduces vegetable production in Malaysia, haze reaching Philippines?

Editor's note: Solutions unlikely to be rapid; note the intractable haze problems also noted in northern ASEAN haze belts too.

Southeast Asia's Haze Explained 1:16 - with Greenpeace footage,'s%20Haze%20Explained

source:, accessed 2.55pm, 4 October 2015. Note: Basis of reporting in Malaysia is PM10 and Singapore and Indonesia uses PM2.5. Also the headline measure use different lagged averages of hourly data. The differing Singapore and Malaysia measures can result in different headline data for very close neighbours, thus northern Singapore is rated dangerous while across the Causeway it is rated moderate (Aqicn website, accessed 5.53pm):

API reading in Palangkaraya over 2,000 - Bernama, Updated: Sunday October 4, 2015 MYT 5:05:17 PM; JAKARTA: The residents in Palangkaraya, capital city of Central Kalimantan now may not be able to breathe easily as the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading in the province has exceeded 2,000.... Meanwhile in Jambi, the API reading is still at hazardous level although it  has decreased from 800 this Sunday morning to 400 this afternoon. - Bernama..

Ahmad Zahid: Indonesia’s plan to combat haze deemed too long  by nadirah h. rodzi  Updated: Sunday October 4, 2015 MYT 12:23:41 PM....Last Tuesday, BBC reported Indonesian president Joko Widodo said he needed time to tackle the forest burning, and that his citizens were also victims of the haze that is affecting the region. In the report, Joko said it would take three years for results to be seen from efforts to end the huge annual fires, as it is "not a problem that you can solve quickly"...

Malaysia should follow Singapore in use of technology to measure haze pollution, Zahid says By Ida Lim Sunday October 4, 201512:19 PM GMT+8 - See more at:

Malaysia can follow Singapore method to measure air quality, says Zahid BY RAM ANAND Published: 4 October 2015 12:08 PM It is not wrong to adopt Singapore's method in reading the air quality, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today, adding that egos must be set aside as the situation caused by forest fires worsens. "We could get the new equipment. But until we implement the reading with the new equipment, we can at least follow their (Singapore) guidelines," he told reporters today after an event at the Al-Hijrah TV station in Kuala Lumpur today....
 - See more at:

Haze choking Malaysian farms as chickens, vegetable production affected, Oct 2, 2015, 8:51 am SGT... PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The haze in Malaysia is affecting business at farms that rear poultry and produce vegetables as chickens die by the millions in a month and farm produce dwindle, with consumers set to be the biggest losers....He added that this was a big issue every year and that at times the mortality rate could rise up to four million of the 50 million that are produced in a month in peninsular Malaysia.... "Chickens are more sensitive to the haze than humans. They have respiratory problems and become weak. We have to give them vitamins. When they are weak, they are slow to grow and that is not good," said Loo, who is also a farmer....  "Many farmers try and keep the breeder chickens that are meant for culling alive so they can lay more eggs. But even hens become weak during the haze and lay fewer eggs," said Loo.... Sarawak Livestock Breeders Association chairman Lee Jin Chiaw said that egg production has dropped by about 2 per cent. In Johor, the owner of Lew Brothers Poultry Farm Sdn Bhd, Lew Kim Huat said that egg production at its two farms in Ulu Tiram and Layang had declined to about 5 per cent since the start of the haze. "Our hens are becoming restless and weak,'' he said adding that about 28,000 of the 700,000 birds also died due to suffocation, about twice the usual number of deaths.....

Philippines’ week-long haze suspected from Indonesia Updated: Sunday October 4, 2015 MYT 8:23:23 AM; MANILA: The Philippine island of Cebu suffered its seventh straight day of haze, the weather bureau said, as South-East Asian countries battle pollution suspected to emanate from illegal fires on Indonesian plantations. Monsoon winds blowing northeast from the Indonesian blazes towards the direction of the central Philippines could have carried the smog, state weather forecaster Romeo Aguirre said....

28 September 2015: Kalla: no more new land, no more peat. Luhut assures it takes haze seriously but Kalla said no need to apologise, Singapore clamps down on five companies, oil palm planters point to good practices, but CIFOR reports on lucrative illegal market for pulpwood and oil palm areas to small investors, the Tesso Nilo case

Editor's note: CIFOR's report on illegal clearance for smaller-scale crop land deals is rather reminiscent of the Malaysia Kelantan flooding problem. Forestry specialists report that rather than offering a large concession to one company (with more patient capital) to do a sustainable timber project (with long rotation cycle for selective timber harvest); policy makers decided on very small scale land allocations. We hear that this resulted in rapid land clearance with slow or low investment to replant. When adverse weather hit (very heavy rains) the upland damage contributed to rather devastating flooding. This sounds rather similar to the illegal peat zone clearance mentioned by CIFOR below done on a small scale. The large plantation concessions do not have reason to burn, especially with many under major voluntary pledges. The difference in fire hotspot occurrences in the different zones points to the difference. Specialists also note the major problem of apparently unchecked small-scale encroachments on the Tesso Nilo forest reserve (In 2005, just over 70,000 ha forest now down to just under 22,000 ha forest in 2014 and blanketed in hot spots during the 2014 season. Who's operating the Tesso Nilo reserve?*). Clearly, the report of the uptick in deforestation for Brazil and Indonesia point to problematic issues. In conversation with another analyst, we reckoned on income targets under lower commodity prices likely pointing to the need for larger small farm areas (for many crops).

*The Tesso Nilo case (it's creation reported here, and exemplifies the unexpected complexities of the Sumatran haze and its blame game. WWF is involved in Tesso Nilo but says the ultimate authority is the Ministry of Forestry. Here, WWF blames companies; But maps show rapid deforestation and haze hotspots rampant in Tesso Nilo reserve zone. This article discusses the issue, "As massive deforestation continues in Sumatra’s Tesso Nilo, Indonesian lawmakers pin blame on ‘foreign’ NGOs," 25th March 2013 by Diana Parker ... Indonesian lawmakers criticized the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for its inability to stop deforestation in Sumatra, accusing the group of trying to destroy Indonesia’s reputation abroad and hurting the country’s......In addition to an insufficient response from the government to tackle the problem, WWF data showed that the lack of protection against encroachment by former permit holders before the area became a national park adds to the problem of rapid deforestation in Tesso Nilo. Corruption among local government officials and traditional leaders also contributes to deforestation and encroachment in the park....

 VP Kalla said the government would improve Indonesia’s land governance by halting the issuance of permits for converting natural forests into industrial forests....“no more new land to boost production.... no more exploitation of peat land..."

Planters under fire over haze;.... "Oil palm planters who carry out proper peatland development and water management at their estates should be given a pat on the back for preventing the spread of peat fire. Instead, what we see is a stab in the back of planters. Such false allegations are sinful," Daud said. "Do you know that professional planters practising modern agriculture invest a lot of money in heavy machinery to clear the land, compact the peat soil and dig up a maze of trenches? "This is to compress the peat soil and keep it moist so that the oil palms can grow properly and yield to their potential. Incidentally, this process makes the soil less flammable and retards fire from spreading underground," he said.Most of the oil palm estates in Riau are matured and bearing fruits. "So, why would planters want to set fire and destroy their oil palms?" asked Daud, adding the maze of trenches filled with water at peat area, which are transportation routes in the estates is doubling up as fire barriers, too. When asked to comment on satellite pictures showing many hotspots across Sumatera and Kalimantan as indicative of fiery blaze within plantation concessions, Daud replied, "we must take note that in Indonesia, 20 per cent of the land bank is under the plasma scheme, of which smallholders occupy scattered enclaves within the estates."  He noted that one must not discount the possibility that fire-causing haze could have been started by the local communities for shifting cultivation of cash crops in these enclaves....

Lucrative illegal market for crop land a key cause of fires: Researcher CIFOR  Published 5 hours ago by David Fogarty Assistant Foreign Editor; Dr Purnomo said there is a well- established market for abandoned or conflict land, with land cleared by burning fetching a premium. Using excavators and other heavy equipment to clear the land is costly and time- consuming. "You need to understand that the fire and haze create a lot of money. Quite a lot of money. There is a market for burned land and also it is a way for cheap and quick land preparation for HTI (pulpwood) and oil palm," he told The Straits Times in an interview last week. "Because if you grab the land, the forest - it can be concession land or state land - you can sell it. My research shows that the price is around eight million rupiah (S$800) per hectare. But if you burn that land, the price will increase," he said. "Some people can claim that land and can sell to the network of people. And the buyers can be someone in Jakarta, Bogor, everywhere... It can be 10ha, 20 or even 100ha." Data shows mid-level investors can come from places outside Indonesia, such as Malaysia, he added. According to Dr Purnomo, the price per hectare is US$665 (S$950) after the land is slashed and cut. If the land is burned, the price goes up about US$200 per hectare: a more or less 30 per cent rise. "There is a market for people who mostly prepare for oil palm. You can imagine if they grow the oil palm, after three years, then the price of that land can reach US$3,077 per ha," he said, basing his research on land prices in Sumatra's Riau province.

George Monbiot is wrong to suggest small farms are best for humans and nature - Monbiot has criticised ecomodernism for endorsing agricultural modernisation, but this is the way to feed a growing urban population and free up land for rewilding by Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger and Linus Blomqvist Friday 25 September 2015 13.25 BST

Singapore clamps down on five firms over haze - Legal action started; govt leaders also speak out against Indonesian officials' comments by Chang Ai-Lien and Audrey Tan, Published Sep 26, 2015, 5:00 am SGT; ...Naming the firms for the first time yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan stressed that the haze was a man-made problem that should not be tolerated. "Ultimately, errant companies must know that there is a price to be paid for damaging our health, environment and economy," he said...yesterday served Singapore-listed firm Asia Pulp and Paper a legal notice to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions. Four Indonesian companies - Rimba Hutani Mas, Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and Wachyuni Mandira - have been told to take measures to extinguish fires on their land, not to start new ones, and submit action plans on how they will prevent future fires.
Under Singapore's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, those guilty can be fined up to $100,000 a day, capped at $2 million, for causing unhealthy haze.....

Indonesia gives assurance that it takes haze very seriously: DPM Teo Chee Hean Published Sep 27, 2015, 8:21 pm SGT by Lee Min Kok; SINGAPORE - Indonesia's Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan has assured Singapore that the country is taking the haze very seriously and will be deploying more troops to deal with forest fires. In a Facebook post on Sunday (Sept 27) evening, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said he had received a phone call from Mr Luhut earlier in the day to discuss the matter....
Indonesia VP Kalla reiterates that Indonesia does not need to apologise to neighbours over haze  Published Sep 25, 2015, 8:02 pm SGT

International media

How you can trade Southeast Asia's haze by Nyshka Chandran Wednesday, 23 Sep 2015 | 9:57 PM ET; ....The price of palm oil has rallied 7 percent in the past fortnight as a cloak of smog, combined with unusually dry weather, disrupts supply in key Southeast Asian producing countries, and analysts say the gains are set to continue....

Something from a reader, from a different perspective...  This is what happens when Harrison Ford meet Indonesian Minister of Forestry  by notfoundher  

25 September 2015: Haze smog spike up, health concerns and studies, severe El Nino to worsen regional haze woes to mid 2016?

Editor's note: Have been in Singapore in recent days, to see the headline measure go over 350. A specialist told me it went over 1,400 in Indonesia. Singapore shops selling masks, discussions of which type is better and more comfortable. Two days ago, I was at MPOC's El Nino talk. We're in severe El Nino expected to last to mid 2016. That does not bode well for the haze problem.

Singapore schools close for first time as haze hits hazardous levels  by joanna seow AND lester hio
Don't judge the haze by sight or smell by Linette Lai Friday, Sep 25, 2015; one of the best ways to determine how unhealthy the air is in real time is to look at the one-hour PM2.5 levels published by the National Environment Agency (NEA), say experts.Understanding the hazeTypically, two types of particles make up the haze.There are the coarser ones, which the human body is mostly equipped to filter out. These particles are large enough to be trapped by the nasal passages or end up being passed directly through the body.The bigger worry is the PM2.5 pollutants - so called because they are no larger than 2.5 microns, or one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair.These can become trapped deep in the lungs and are tiny enough to pass through linings into the bloodstream.Long-term exposure to these particles on a regular basis has been linked to increased risk of death from heart and lung complications such as lung cancer or heart disease. - See more at:

Fast food chains suspend delivery service in Singapore due to haze Updated: Thursday September 24, 2015 MYT 9:08:34 PM

Singapore air quality 'very unhealthy' over Indonesia fires  Updated: Thursday September 24, 2015 MYT 6:03:32 PM; The city-state, which prides itself for its clean environment, has been cloaked in the haze in varying degrees for about three weeks, the worst such episode since mid-2013. But Southeast Asia's worst bout with haze was in 1997-1998 when the smog caused an estimated $9 billion in losses in economic activity across the region.  The haze situation has been made worse this year by an El Nino weather system, which produces tinder-dry conditions in Indonesia and increases the risk of fires. Under pressure from its neighbours to stop the annual haze, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has pledged to crack down on companies and individuals behind the burnings, which are a cheap but harmful way of clearing vast tracts of land for plantations. During a visit to the haze-affected islands of Borneo and Sumatra this week, Widodo called on local communities to do their part in helping contain the scourge.  .... Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency told AFP that 2,081 fire "hotspots" were recorded in the worst-affected region of Indonesia's Kalimantan and 290 in Sumatra on Thursday....

22 September 2015:  Reuters - Indonesia starts legal action against 4 companies linked to South-east Asia haze

Reuters - Indonesia starts legal action against 4 companies linked to South-east Asia haze - Updated: 3:01 PM, September 22, 2015; JAKARTA — Indonesia has ordered four companies to suspend operations for causing forest fires which have sent smoke across a swathe of South-east Asia, an environment ministry official said today (Sept 22)....

20 September 2015: In recent one week 3% hot spots on palm oil (48% on pulpwood plantations, 48% outside of concession areas).  Giant companies plan for more community efforts, point to need for One Map approach and points to problem of government "dishing out licences"

Editor's note: Industry people are keeping an eye for this on reporting - Global Forest Watch link

Haze puts Indonesia pulpwood plantations in a hot spot By Andrea Soh Sep 18, 20155:50 AM Singapore; Only 3 per cent of the hot spots between Sept 7 and Sept 14 were seen on oil palm concessions, according to data from the Global Forest Watch (GFW) programme by Washington-based advocacy group World Resources Institute (WRI); no such data was available in 2013, but palm oil firms had been widely blamed by the Indonesian government and non-governmental organisations..... But while palm oil firms have gotten off relatively easily this time round, paper and pulp companies have come under heavy fire as 48 per cent of fire alerts were found to be on pulpwood plantations by GFW in its recent analysis....What has emerged thanks to GFW's data is that smallholder farmers are behind many of the fire spots - 48 per cent of fire alerts were seen outside pulpwood, logging and palm oil concessions. And even when they are in concessions, these are sometimes carried by wind and topography from outside the concession areas, said plantation firms....  for APP, which manages concessions covering 2.6 million hectares - or almost 35 times the size of Singapore - in Indonesia. "The fires are usually started by illegal activity by individuals, whether inside or outside of our concession areas, usually to open land in order to claim the area. These practices are unfortunately very common, and occur not only in areas managed by companies but also in various protected forests managed by the government," she said. The root problem, said the unnamed plantation firm executive, is rural poverty. "It is much easier for them to set fire to clear land than to use other mechanical means ... it's a way of life."..Recognising this, many companies have started community engagement programmes - on top of placing fire-fighting brigades, some numbering in the hundreds, and infrastructure in their concessions.... Golden Agri plans to start involving the community in several concessions in jointly managed conservation plans in the near future. "This will involve a holistic approach on managing the land and conserving forests which will also help mitigate fire incidents," said the spokesman....There are efforts being made toward a One Map initiative. Golden Agri, which supports the initiative together with WRI and other palm oil majors, said this is scheduled to begin in the near future in Riau, and that consultations with multi-stakeholders are currently ongoing as a preparatory step. But some doubt that it will be completed any time soon, given the lack of political will. "It should have been done a few years ago," said the senior plantation executive. "If Indonesia had a comprehensive One Map of the whole country, detailing exactly where the peat areas, the protected areas, and the high biodiversity areas are - and they can do it if they want - then the government can simply not give out peatland and high conservation value areas (to plantation companies)." "But the government keeps dishing out licences like that," he added, "perhaps because they want to earn money."


18 September 2015: 7 Firms, 133 People Named Suspects in Indonesia Forest Fires - Associated Press, Record fines against  concessionaires on the rise? House asks for budget revision to combat haze

Editor's note: Sadly, the peatsmog haze has been an annual occurrence (sometimes more than one episode) and the question is whether anything can be done about stopping it before it hits its 20th anniversary in a couple of years. For palm oil, despite studies that show a lesser (although still significant at around 20%) cause than other types of concession (timber, pulp & paper) and ex-concession areas i.e. smallholders and others, its association remains high in the public perception. The blame game is heightening. As expected, the onus for companies shifted a while back to responsibility in stopping fires. We broadly expect companies not to be fire starters given the dangers to their business assets. Indonesia news also indicates heightened attention to studying economic losses as well human tragedies (including death of children and fire fighters). From the tone of Indonesia news and policy maker comments, it seems likely that corporate business present in these zones will have to face increased regulatory and legal exposure. For all the corporate money spent on sustainability (HCV, HCS consultants, IT systems for traceability, stakeholder relations more focused on individual companies), one has to take a step back and wonder at the "what if" of a more strategic collective resource effort to effectively address the peatsmog crisis that still continues to have its grip on palm oil. The "it's not me" approach to crisis management has severe limitations and we daresay has little influence on policy makers in countries increasingly deciding on how much palm oil they want their permit in their food system. By all accounts, trade experts fear that nutrition decisions may be influenced by other considerations - and the annual peat smog crisis may cloud many decisions.

7 Firms, 133 People Named Suspects in Indonesia Forest Fires By The Associated Press ·JAKARTA, Indonesia — Sep 17, 2015, 11:12 AM ET; Indonesian police said Thursday they have identified seven companies and 133 individuals suspected of causing forest fires that are spreading choking smoke and polluted air across parts of western Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. National Police spokesman Col. Suharsono said 27 more companies and 85 individuals are still under investigation by police in six provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan on the Indonesian part of Borneo.  President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered law enforcement agencies to take "stern actions" including revoking forest concessions and blacklisting those responsible for the fires so the haze does not occur again. "We are ashamed because we should be able to prevent it easily by using all our efforts and ability," he said. Slash-and-burn practices destroy huge areas of Indonesian forest every summer during the dry season, creating haze that angers surrounding countries. The fires are set to clear land for farming, corporate development or oil palm plantations. Suharsono, who uses a single name, said the suspects include general managers and operational managers of companies. He said some suspects had been arrested but did not say how many. In Pekanbaru, the capital of peat-rich Riau province, police arrested the general manager of PT Langam Inti Hibrido, a palm oil plantation company. Suharsono said the suspects will be charged with violating the Environment Law and Forestry Law, which carry maximum penalties of 15 years in prison and a fine of about $700,000. Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya said her office is preparing civil actions and administrative sanctions against nine corporations. The sanctions include termination of activities and suspension or revocation of licenses....

Malaysian company investigated over forest fires, says Indonesia Published: 17 September 2015 7:26 AM - See more at:

Why oppose zero deforestation? Agus P. Sari, jakarta | Opinion | Tue, September 15 2015, 3:36 PM; There are two remarkable characteristics of the current IPOP. First, it is indigenous to Indonesia, and second, it was developed by the private sector in the absence of government regulation. The critics apparently missed those points. First, the IPOP was accused of submitting to pressure from foreign companies. Yet it is a voluntary commitment that is above and beyond market expectations.Our palm oil industry used to be criticized, sometimes boycotted, by overseas buyers. To unlock critical markets, the industry must respond directly to the sustainability challenge.One way for private companies to respond is through employing sustainability standards. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a standard developed through a multi-stakeholder process, was considered a breakthrough. A domestically-created standard was seen as more tenable to the government’s Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO). Largely a certification for legal compliance, ISPO was immediately embraced by the industry. Yet until today only a few companies in Indonesia are ISPO-certified. All signatories of IPOP are also signatories of ISPO.The Consumer Goods Forum and the Tropical Forests Alliance 2020 lobbied for a better standard. Fortunately, they gained political support from the highest levels; then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened their first conference in Jakarta in July 2013. Indeed, pressure from the palm oil market has been real. But instead of only responding to (overseas) market pressure, IPOP went further than that.The critics also say the industry still needs to be expanded and that a zero deforestation commitment may hinder such an expansion. This is simplistic and unfounded. First, with better landscape and industrial management, the plantations can deliver annual palm oil growth to 40 million tons by 2020 without expanding existing plantations, as shown by a World Bank study....The writer is an observer of environmental and sustainability issues. He was formerly deputy chair of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Management Agency. - See more at:

Record fine against plantation company upheld Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Sun, September 13 2015, 1:32 PM;... The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by palm oil company PT Kallista Alam and ordered the company to pay fines totalling Rp 366 billion (US$25.6 million) for illegally burning large swathes of the Tripa forest in Aceh, a verdict that many hope could set a precedent for future law enforcement against agro-forestry companies.The Environment and Forestry Ministry, which filed the lawsuit against PT Kallista Alam back in 2012, said the ruling was unprecedented, especially the size of the fine ordered in an environmental case. “As far as I know, nothing has been as big as this,” the ministry’s law enforcement director-general Rasio Ridho Sani, told The Jakarta Post... “We hope it becomes a reference for judges hearing cases in Palembang against PT Bumi Mekar Hijau and North Jakarta in the case of PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa,” said Rasio.With regard to PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa, the ministry has filed a civil lawsuit at the North Jakarta District Court against the company, demanding Rp 119.88 billion in fines for damaging the environment and Rp 371.12 billion for the recovery of the area. In a bigger case, the ministry has also filed civil lawsuits with the Palembang District Court in South Sumatra against PT Bumi Mekar Hijau for allegedly causing fires in 20,000 hectares in Ogan Komering Ilir, South Sumatra. It has demanded the company pay a fine of Rp 2.6 trillion for damaging the environment and Rp 5.2 trillion for its recovery. Both trials are currently ongoing.“It’s the biggest lawsuit we’ve ever filed,” Rasio said, adding that the lawsuit would reimburse the state Rp 7.8 trillion if it was successful. “So, I hope the judges handling these cases can learn from the Supreme Court’s verdict [on PT Kallista Alam].”PT Bumi Mekar Hijau is a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper. It has concessions amounting to 250,370 hectares in Ogan Komering Ilir. Based on data from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), most of the locations of fires in the province are on the company’s concessions.The ministry has been actively suing plantation companies for causing forest fires since 2013. The companies use the slash-and-burn method to open up forest areas as it is so cheap. “We are preparing to file civil lawsuits against five other companies. Maybe next week we will do so,” Rasio said. - See more at:

House asks for budget revision to combat haze Dandy Koswaraputra, | National | Thu, September 17 2015, 3:31 PM; The House of Representatives urged the Indonesian government to review next year's state budget to get extra funds, up to Rp 10 trillion (US$714 million), in order to combat forest fires. House member Herman Khaeron said that the state budget for the Environment and Forestry Ministry was quite insignificant, Rp 6.7 trillion in 2015, and decreasing to Rp 6.3 trillion in the 2016 state budget. “We need extra funding, at least Rp 10 trillion, to cope with forest fire disasters alone,” Herman told on Thursday.He said the funds aimed to build infrastructure and public awareness through holding training sessions in which local people fully understood how to handle such disasters instead of deploying military or police troops to extinguish forest fires. “I regret that the government does not seem proactive in preparing for the situation,” Herman asserted, adding that he appreciates the forestry ministry's efforts to provide fire extinguishing equipment.According to Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, around 52,000 hectares of land in Sumatra were ravaged by fire, while 138,000 ha in Kalimantan were scorched....Herry Purnomo, a scientist at CIFOR and professor at Bogor Agricultural University, said that Indonesia would likely suffer $4 billion in losses this year, relating to agriculture production, destruction of forests, health, transportation, tourism and other economic endeavors.A 2013 World Bank report shows the total financial loss from forest fires in Riau province at Rp 20 trillion ($1.4 billion).Herry added that Malaysia and Singapore, as smog-affected countries, should be more responsible in dealing with forest fires by issuing regulations and law enforcement for their citizens’ companies operating in Indonesia. - See more at:

Punish forest fire starters: The Jakarta Post; ....Two children in Jambi died last week of respiratory infection, almost certainly due to constant exposure to smoke from forest fires. Haze from the fires has also prevented thousands of children from attending school, delayed or cancelled flights and dragged economic and social activities to a halt in Sumatra and Kalimantan. In Sukabumi, West Java, a fire fighter died of exhaustion and smoke inhalation while battling a wildfire in Cikepuh sanctuary last week.....

Ecocriticism and the haze crisis Donny Syofyan, Padang, West Sumatra | Opinion | Thu, September 17 2015, 3:36 PM, The writer is a lecturer at the School of Cultural Sciences at Andalas University, Padang. - See more at:

Sumatra, the suffering paradise Delita Sartika, Victoria | Opinion | Thu, September 17 2015, 4:25 PM, The writer is a lecturer at Jambi University studying at Monash University in Victoria, Australia. - See more at:

16 September 2015: 40 individuals and Provident Agro unit charged for fires in Riau, Malaysia affected schools closed until further notice, 13 airports closed in Sumatra and Kalimantan

13 airports closed in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Jakarta | Archipelago | Wed, September 16 2015, 12:20 PM - See more at:

Provident Agro unit - Police Charge Oil Palm Company Over Sumatra Forest Fire By : Jakarta Globe | on 16:39 PM September 14, 2015; The company has been identified as Langgam Inti Hibrida, an joins 40 individuals charged with setting 37 forest fires in Riau province, according to Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tedjo, a spokesman for the provincial police....Established in 1998, LIH is based in Riau’s Pelalawan district and is 99.8 percent owned by publicly lited Provident Agro. The company was also cited earlier this year by district environmental officials for improper waste management.
Malaysia - Ministry orders schools to remain closed until further notice

15 September 2015: 3 Peninsular Malaysia states close schools on haze, Indonesia to share names of companies, Malaysia and Singapore companies blame game, three studies on fire causes point to complex picture and smallholders role

Unhealthy API in 33 areas nationwide, schools closed in 3 states, KL, Putrajaya Published: 15 September 2015 8:15 AM - See more at:
Indonesia to share names of companies causing forest fires Published: 15 September 2015 8:31 AM - See more at:
Malaysia, Singapore should take responsibility for fires too, says Indonesian expert Published: 15 September 2015 9:06 AM - See more at:

Jokowi wants land clearing by burning of forests to stop from next year Published: 7 September 2015 10:03 PM - See more at:

Erik Meijaard: Get Your Facts Right on Indonesia's Haze Problem, By : Erik Meijaard | on 18:52 PM September 07, 2015 Category : Opinion, Columns, Front Page ... So I say it again, just in case there is someone out there willing to listen. Studies of fire and haze in Kalimantan and Sumatra firmly point towards small-scale farmers and other under-the-radar, mid-scale land-owners, rather than large companies as the main cause of fires and haze.... A study published in August 2015 in the journal Environmental Research Letters clearly shows that on Sumatra 59 percent of fire emissions originate from outside timber and oil-palm concession boundaries. These non-concession-related fires generated 62 percent of smoke exposure in equatorial Southeast Asia (primarily Singapore and Malaysia). In Kalimantan, non-concession fires play an even bigger role. Fires outside concessions generated 73 percent of all emissions and 76 percent of smoke affecting equatorial Southeast Asia.... These findings are in line with similar results based on more detailed studies in Riau and published in Nature in 2014. In Riau, 52 percent of the total burned area in 2013 was within concessions. However, 60 percent of these burned areas were occupied and used by small-and medium-landholders.... And another scientific publication on the causes of Indonesian forest fires showed that, even 15 years ago, when oil-palm companies were involved a lot more frequently than now in land-clearing with fire, rural communities were a dominant cause of fires in both Sumatra and Kalimantan.... The key point is that the fire and haze problem in Indonesia is complex, with multiple actors playing a role. Focusing on large concessions alone, which the Indonesian government and also non-government organizations seem to do, is not going to do much to reduce the problem.... If the president wants “no more forest fires next year,” his government needs to get realistic about real causes and think about how to address these effectively. Anyone who has ever spent time in Kalimantan or Sumatra during the dry season knows that burning land for agriculture, for hunting, or just for fun is a favorite pastime of many. Most districts have laws in place that prohibit this kind of burning, but the big issue is that no one pays any heed to these laws and consequently they are largely ignored.....
Studies mentioned:

13 September 2015: Haze back with vengeance, Indonesia accepts Singapore's offer to fight forest fires

Indonesia accepts Singapore's offer to fight forest fires POSTED: 11 Sep 2015 16:45; Indonesia has accepted Singapore's offer to fight the ongoing forest fires in Sumatra.

The haze is back with a vengeance - The air quality in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia tipped into the unhealthy and hazardous ranges this week, as the haze from Indonesia's forest fires worsened. Why does this issue persist, despite the many high-profile forest protection pledges made by companies and governments?  By Vaidehi Shah Thursday 10 September 2015

Red tape hampering efforts to deal with forest fires The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Mon, August 31 2015, 3:47 PM; The government knows how to solve the problem of forest fires but has yet to implement the solution, a senior Environment and Forestry Ministry official has said.Nur Masripatin, the director general for climate change with the ministry said that the government would continue conducting feasibility studies before taking action.... CIFOR recommends the government allocate a higher proportion of the national budget for fire prevention. Currently the budget for forest fires reserves 90 percent for fire fighting and preparedness and 10 percent for prevention. The institution suggests the government also allocate more toward peat land restoration.CIFOR found in research conducted in 2014 and 2015 that 70 percent of forest fires in Indonesia are caused by the draining of peat lands for agriculture use. “Allocate a large part of the national budget to restore peat lands to hydrological equilibrium. The government may use rehabilitation funds or the commodities export tax to pay for peat land restoration on a large scale,” David Gaveau, a landscape scientist of CIFOR said.Nur said that she agreed with the proposal, but added that, at least in the next two years, the government should still allocate more for fire fighting effort. “For example in Jambi, we still need Air Tractors,” she said. - See more at:

Political economy of fire and haze: Moving to long-term solutions By Herry Purnomo Wednesday 2 September 2015; CIFOR scientist Herry Purnomo outlines a multi-pronged strategy for tackling deforestation and forest fires in Indonesia; Between 1980 and 2000 – a timber logging boom. Illegal logging followed – so, another boom in the 10 years from 2000, and then the palm oil boom came after that. Pristine forest was severely logged and turned into degraded forest. What was left was slashed and burned, made ready for oil palm and wood plantations of different scales. This landscape transformation provided benefits and costs to various actors. But fire and haze were also part of the landscape transformation. Under President Joko Widodo, the Government of Indonesia has committed to reducing – or even zeroing – fire incidences in Indonesia. And although some improvements have been made, fire and haze continue....