Indonesia Needs Special Court for Environment-Related Cases: NGO

PEKANBARU ~

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) suggested the government should establish a special court for environment-related cases that had imposed material and ecological costs, Walhi’s Riau branch Director Riko Kurniawan said here on Wednesday.

Riko argued that environmental problems were as damaging to society as corruption. While corruption cases were being tried in corruption court, environment-related cases were still being tried in general court.

According to him, the government needed a strong commitment to reduce the number of ecological problems in Indonesia, which had cost the country a huge amount in material losses. Riko took the example of the haze from forest fires in Riau earlier this year. The ecological disaster had burned 21 thousand hectares of forest land and had resulted in Rp20 trillion in losses for the government and the local people.

The police investigation revealed that the forest fire had been deliberately started by people who wanted to clear land for a new plantation.

Forest and land fires occurring in the Riau Province between February and April 2014 have caused economic losses worth more than Rp20 trillion, according to data furnished by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

“It should be kept in mind that once the fires break out, it is difficult to extinguish them and can cause huge losses,” BNPB Chief Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

The haze disaster triggered by the fires disrupted around 30 percent of Riau’s economic activity and caused monetary losses.

The BNPB had spent around Rp164 billion, or one-third of its budget, to deal with the fires across the nation.

The fires also caused environmental damage as more than 21.9 thousand hectares of forest and plantation areas were gutted by these fires.

The haze also affected the health of several residents in Riau and the neighboring provinces, such as West and North Sumatra.

The largest loss caused by forest and land fires in Indonesia occurred in 1997, when fires wiped out millions of hectares of forest and plantation areas and caused losses worth US$2.45 billion.

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