The Need for Stricter Law Enforcement for Companies Contributing to Forest Fires in Indonesia
Indonesia is currently facing its worst fire episode since 2019. According to satellite image analysis done from September 2 to 10, nearly 9,000 acres of land have been burned in four concessions. Save Our Borneo (SOB) director Muhammad Habibi reported that these fires are in concessions that have not been cultivated yet, and most of them are owned by two industrial forest firms and two palm oil firms. This situation has led activists and lawmakers to urge the government to enforce stricter laws against companies that contribute to environment-related crimes.
Strict Liability Law and Concession Owners
The concept of the strict liability law is applied in cases of forest fires in Indonesia, wherein companies are held liable for fires that occur on their land or start outside the concession boundaries. Even if a company is not responsible for starting a fire, they may still face prosecution under this law if measures to prevent and extinguish fires are not adequate. Despite being held strictly liable, many companies argue that they have taken measures to extinguish fires, which begs the question of negligence. As a result, LBH Palangkaraya and Walhi Central Kalimantan recently filed a police report against four companies, two of which are industrial forest firms (PT Industrial Forest Plantation and PT Rimbun Seruyan) and two of which are palm oil firms (PT Karya Luhur Sejati and PT Globalindo Agung Lestari). The same companies were also burned during the 2019 great fire, indicating intentional burning.
The Importance of Stricter Law Enforcement
The burning of concessions has resulted in environmental pollution, air pollution, and respiratory disease, resulting in activists and lawmakers calling for stricter law enforcement. Since 2015, Walhi has identified 184,223 fire spots in 1.58 million acres of land in Indonesia, with most of the fire spots located within the concessions of 194 companies. More concerning are the 38 concessions that have a history of fires between 2015 and 2020. The lack of strict law enforcement has led to the burned concessions being replanted with palm oil trees, leaving the companies able to continue contributing to the recurring fire episodes.
Necessity for Legal Punishment and Sanctions
Activists and lawmakers are calling for tougher police action against companies responsible for the fires. Companies that fail to prevent and mitigate fires in their areas are subject to administrative sanctions, including permit revocation and criminal punishment of up to 10 years of prison time and IDR 10 billion ($630,000) in fines. Furthermore, companies such as IFP, KLS, and GAL that have a history of deforestation and illegal activities need to have their licenses evaluated and revoked. Legal punishment and sanctions are necessary to deter companies from contributing to fires in the future and protect the safety of millions of Indonesians.
The burning of concessions by companies has contributed to environmental and air pollution, respiratory disease, and subsequent damages to the Indonesian economy. The Indonesian government must take stricter action against companies contributing to the annual fire episodes by developing comprehensive laws and enforcing them against companies failing to prevent fires in their concessions. Legal punishment and warning sanctions must be enforced to have a deterrent effect and reduce future fires.
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