Former Riau Police Chief Reveals Three Motives for Forest Burning

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    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Former Riau Police chief Sutjiptadi said there are three motives behind the forest fires in Sumatera and Kalimantan by businessmen. “They aim to clear lands with a low cost,” Sutjipadi told Tempo on Tuesday.

    The first motive is land clearing of forest areas of which companies have concession rights. “Land clearing by burning is cheap and is often done by companies,” said Sutjiptadi who served as Riau Police chief in 2006-2008.

    However, he said, there is a provision that company must obey which is cleared plants must be stacked on a bed of concrete so that fires will not spread. “The cost is expensive. One hectare costs around five million rupiahs.”

    The second motive is avoid spending on reforestation. Every company who gains licenses for forest lands must replant. The fund comes from the government. “Most companies don’t replant and in order to avoid being found out that the don’t, they burn the land,” he said.

    The third motive is revitalization of palm trees. According to Sutjiptadi, most old palm tress are cut and burnt. The regulation, however, stipulates that burning of palm trees that no longer produce must be conducted on a bed of concrete. “That procedure is not carried out. They (companies) always find cheaper and more practical ways.”

    Sutjiptadi said the government must be firm in taking action against violation by companies. “They gain permission to manage lands under the conditions that they must have a watchtower, water reservoir and a patrol team,” he said.

    According to Sutjiptadi, haze disaster in Riau must be handled in a preventive and repressive way. The preventive way is by gathering concession holders and warning them that forest fires pose criminal risk, political risk, health risk and environmental damage.

    For the repressive way, local governments and police should have been able to detect. “If companies are indicated of burning lands, the consequences are they must be convicted and their license for forest management can be revoked.”