How palm oil companies like IOI have set Indonesia on fire

How palm oil companies like IOI have set indonesia on fire

27 September 2016

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Indonesia —  This morning, while most of the Netherlands was still asleep, my colleague Nilus and I – along with dozens of Greenpeace activists – slipped into Rotterdam’s port facilities. The temperature is just eight degrees celsius, my first time ever being this cold.

Our mission must not fail: we are blockading the entry of dirty palm oil to IOI’s refineries. IOI is one of the largest palm oil companies in the world.

Thousands of kilometres away from Rotterdam, in our hometown, in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, forest fires occur every year. Fire has destroyed the peat forests and brought orangutans closer to extinction. IOI opens up palm oil plantations by drying out the peat, which makes it very flammable, leading to haze-making infernos.

Last year, peat fires created huge amounts of pollution – 43 million Indonesian people were exposed to smoke, including both Nilus and myself. I read a recent study from Harvard and Columbia universities that estimated there were over 100,000 premature deaths across South East Asia in 2015 due to smoke pollution from the fires. Over 91,000 of those deaths were in Indonesia.

I have known Nilus for several years. He has two children who live in Ketapang, where IOI has damaged the peat, leading to enormous fires. Nilus and his family have been breathing in peat smoke for years.

I came to Rotterdam to take action. To block this palm oil from entering Europe. The world must know the human cost contained in the products they consume every day. IOI’s palm oil is dirty and damaged. IOI must stop destroying Indonesia’s peat forests.

Together, Nilus and I have joined a fire-fighting teams formed by Greenpeace Indonesia. The team is composed of 20 volunteers from several regions across my country. We are not only trained in how to extinguish fires, but much more importantly, trained in how to prevent fires. We do this because we want to end this era of fires and haze in Indonesia. Extinguishing fires is hard work, but it is important to protect the forests and peatlands. More importantly, palm oil companies need to make sure they do not create the conditions that allow fires to start so easily.

Millions of people should not have their health damaged by smoke and fires just because plantation companies such as IOI destroy forests for their own profit.

Today we showed the world who IOI really is and the threat they are to my country’s forests and my people’s health. But beating these fires is not over. Now Nilus and I return to Indonesia to continue to protect out forests from companies like IOI.

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