As forest fires once again spread, hitting Aceh province and surrounding regions with choking smoke, the ‘burning season’ has arrived once more. Satellite images last week indicated around 35 hotspots in Aceh, out of a total of 170 across Indonesia. With the dry season expected to peak in August and September, the threat is likely to escalate.
In previous years, the World Bank has pointed the finger at the practise of draining peatlands followed by conversion to farmlands, especially oil palm plantations. Despite government pledges to tackle this annual crisis and implement new measures to prevent the fires and resulting haze, this year’s fires are predicted to be worse than last year’s.
On Monday Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry announced its desire to make permanent the current temporary ban on the conversion of primary forests and peatlands. The moratorium, first issued in 2011 and extended twice since then, has ostensibly halted the issuing of new licences to use such land for agriculture.
If enforced, this should go some way to tackling the deforestation and forest fire crisis in Indonesia, so it is certainly good news that the government is considering making this a permanent ruling. However, with frontline and campaigning groups shining a spotlight on ongoing breaches of the moratorium within the Leuser Ecosystem, clearly more work needs to be done to enforce the protection of forests from the bulldozers.