The toxic haze that engulfed Southeast Asia for months throughout the second half of 2019 was not the first time air pollution has scarred the region. And it might not be the last, if Indonesia’s pulp industry does not undertake major peatland restoration efforts.
An environmental group calling itself Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan (the Anti Forest-Mafia Coalition) says two of Indonesia’s largest pulp producers are investing heavily in processes that compound rather than reduce the pressures on fire-prone peatlands.
“They are likely to perpetuate elevated levels of fire and haze risk in Indonesia for many years to come,” said the coalition, which includes United States-based Rainforest Action Network, the Environmental Papers Network and Indonesian environmental protection groups Auriga and Hutan Kita Institute.
“Of the eight pulpwood concessions with the worst fires, six are wood suppliers to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and one is a wood supplier to Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL),” the coalition said in its report.
The Anti Forest-Mafia Coalition highlighted, however, that APP and APRIL have together drained peatlands covering 750,000 hectares (1.85 million acres), equivalent to more than 10 times the land area of Singapore.
Not only does this make the land more prone to fires, but neither company has implemented large-scale land restoration measures on which they currently grow acacia wood for pulp production, the coalition said.
Acknowledgement to Al Jazeera and Samantha Ho, for this story.