Indonesia — In an effort to prevent forest fires, a government-sanctioned team has warned six regencies and municipalities as well as 17 companies in Riau to improve their compliance with environmental regulations within a month or face harsh punishment.
After handing over the results of an audit to the local administrations and firms on Friday, the team will hold further meetings to assist with the required changes.
If the companies fail to comply within a month, we will urge the regional administrations to impose punishments, said Mas Achmad Santosa, law-enforcement deputy at the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4), during an audit-result meeting involving the team, Riau administration and representatives of the six regencies/municipalities at the Riau governors office.
The audit was conducted by a team consisting of the UKP4, the REDD+ Management Agency, the Forestry Ministry and the Riau Police. The audit found that of six regional administrations in Riau, four of them: Indragiri Hilir regency, Dumai city, Rokan Hilir regency, and Meranti Islands regency had poor regulatory and supervisory systems.
Riau was the first province to be audited by the team as 93.6 percent of peatland hot spots in Indonesia between Jan. 2 and March 13 were located in Riau causing more than 30,000 Riau residents to suffer acute respiratory infections as well as eye and skin irritations due to the resulting haze.
Bambang Heru Saharjo, dean of the Bogor Agriculture Institutes faculty of forestry and head of the audit team, said the regional administration had failed to implement a proper supervisory system of the plantation and forestry companies in their area.
The regional administration did not even know their obligations toward fire prevention and mitigation, Bambang said. He also urged the administrations not to hesitate to impose heavy sanctions companies that violated regulations.
Meanwhile, Irwan, the regent of Meranti Island, denied that his administration had not complied with regulations or had failed to apply sufficient supervision on companies in the regency. He argued that his regency had suffered its first forest fire this year and his administration had not been prepared to handle it.
My regency had its first ever forest fire only recently, and it was something that were not yet ready to face. Furthermore, there are funds that have been allocated by the provincial administration for forest-fire control but we have yet to receive any, Irwan said.
Based on the audit result, Bengkalis regency achieved the highest score in complying with regulations with a compliance score of 92.26 percent, while Meranti Island had the lowest score at 56.54.
The company with the worst performance was PT SRL Block III, which scored 7.22 percent, while another 14 companies, identified by their initials: PT AA, PT SRL Block V, PT DRT, PT SPA, PT RUJ, PT SPM, PT SRL Block IV, PT RRL, PT NSP, PT SG, PT SSL, PT BNS, PT JP, PT ME, PT TFDI and PT SAM had compliance scores of between 18.5 percent and 52.38 percent.
Jajang Suherlan, a representative of PT SRL Block III argued that his company was unaware of the compliance levels and it would try to meet the requirements in the near future. However another company representative, Agus Halimi, said he would need to study the report first before making any changes in the company and criticized the report for only pointing the finger of blame at the company.