Farmers promised incentives to stop burning forests

Farmers promised incentives to stopburning forests

3 November 2006

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Indonesia — The government says it will begin offering farmersincentives to stop clearing land using fire, as part of efforts to stop theannual haze that has become a regional problem. Planned incentives includeproviding productive crop seedlings and grants to farmers, according to anofficial at the State Ministry for the Environment.

“The money will be taken from a proposed US$60 million fund to address theannual forest fire problem,” Agus Purnomo, a special assistant oninternational environmental issues, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

That was just one of the proposals announced during a regional workshop onTrans-Boundary Haze Pollution held in Jakarta. Attending the workshop weresenior officials from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore andThailand.

Indonesia is under pressure to deal with the haze, with neighboring countriescriticizing Jakarta for its lack of action on the issue. An earlier meeting ofenvironment ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)was held in Riau to discuss the issue. Jakarta has yet to pass into law aregional agreement on trans-boundary pollution, which would help speed upassistance from neighboring countries in fighting
fires in Indonesian territory.

The proposals from the workshop will be submitted for endorsement at the ASEANMinisterial Meeting on the Environment in Cebu, the Philippines, on
Nov. 9-10. Indonesia proposed 80 programs to reduce forest fires, includingsetting up early warning systems in fire-prone areas and strengthening the
country’s capability to fight forest fires.

Jakarta has long blamed forest fires on land clearance activities by farmers andplantation companies. In response, it has banned the planting of crops on burnedland.

“Imposing a kind of status quo on burned land has been effective inreducing forests fire,” State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelartold the Post.

The workshop also discussed the establishment of a ministerial steeringcommittee comprising environment ministers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia,Singapore and Thailand. The committee would monitor haze problems and set up ahotline for the exchange of information in the event of forest fires.

“We must be creative in devising preventive actions. Putting people in jailfor carrying matches and kerosene may be one method, but we have to look beyondsuch measures to be more effective,” Rachmat said.

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