Indonesia’s government has taken the first concrete steps to crack down on some of the worst forest fires in the country’s history, penalising 23 companies for causing them.
The Jakarta Post reports three companies have had their licences revoked, 16 suspended and four placed under observation.
Forest fires across the country, including Indonesia’s Papua provinces, have created an ecological disaster, health problems and economic losses with an estimated 2.1 million hectares burned.
There have also been 21 deaths and more than half a million people are suffering respiratory problems.
Brotestes Panjaitan, the director of investigations at ministry of forestry, told the Jakarta Post an additional 33 companies are also being investigated.
The World Bank has estimated Indonesia’s economy has lost US$16 billion due to the fires, more than double what was spent on rebuilding Aceh province after the 2004 tsunami.
In a related story, Greenpeace’s Indonesia forest campaigner Yuyun Indradi also says the fires have belched carbon haze across the region which is a health hazard for many communities.
He says those behind clearance of forests in Papua are forcing the West Papuans to try oil Palm farming, something which they do not take too easily.