Archived press release
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The fires are strongest in East Kalimantan (part of Borneo) and Sumatra, where the rainy season this year has been particularly poor. Satellite images show numerous “hot-spots”in East Kalimantan. Especially badly hit is the Kutai National Park, home to around 2,000 orang utan, a seriously endangered species reduced to just 30,000 individuals in total. The fires contribute to global warming and create noxious smog, by trapping transport and industrial fumes under a pall of smoke [1]. They also threaten further damage to the Indonesian economy already badly hit by the collapse of the rupiah and the scale of foreign debt.

The main cause of the fires is large plantation companies, many with close connections to the Government, who illegally use fire to clear their land. The fires spread particularly easily through areas that have been heavily logged. Indonesia is the second largest supplier of tropical timber to the UK, and is also a major supplier of palm oil (used in margarine and other foods, soaps etc).

Friends of the Earth has written to the UK Timber Trade Federation and to major palm oil importers (including United Biscuits and Van den Burgh Foods), challenging them to provide proof to consumers that they are not trading with companies that have used fire on their land [2].

Georgina Green of Friends of the Earth said:

“ It's scandalous that, although the Indonesian government has a huge amount of money that is meant for forest protection, this money hasn't been used to tackle this disaster. If they don't take urgent action now, in the current dry

conditions, the disaster will get worse and worse. The international market,including the UK, can help by demanding their Indonesian suppliers prove they don't start fires, so that the companies know they will lose business if they do.”

[1]    In October last year, over 1 million hectares of forest were burning, releasing an estimated 220 to 290 million tonnes of CO2. This is about half the UK's annual CO2 emissions.

[2]     Timber companies whose land is suffering from fires include PT Inhutani I and II, PT ITCI, PT Oceanis Timber Product, PT Sumber Mas II and V, PT Persada Bumi Hijau, PT Porodisa Trading Indonesia, PT GPI/Kiani Lestari, PT Gunung Raya Utama Timber, and PT Indah Meranti Permata Timor Coy.

[3]     Since early February there have been riots in many Indonesian towns over rising food prices and shortages of basic goods. Towns affected include Ujung Pendag,Rembang, Pasuran, Jember, Tuban, Subang, Jatiwangi, Losari, Ciasem, Rangkasbitung,Serpong.

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust