Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) regrets that Greenpeace’s latest report focuses narrowly and solely on the number of fire incidents in Indonesia, and once again neglects real issues, challenges and complexities surrounding forest fires. The report ignores the on-the-ground transfomation within the palm oil industry in Indonesia, especially in the last five years.
GAR has adopted and implemented a strict Zero Burning Policy for over two decades. As a result of this and other fire management procedures, only about one percent of GAR’s area was affected by fires in the record-breaking fire season of 2015. In spite of a challenging fire season in 2019 due to dry weather conditions, these SOPs again helped to ensure that 99.5 percent of GAR area was not affected by fires. On average only 0.1 percent of GAR’s concession area between 2016-2019 was affected by fire. In years without dry El-Nino conditions, such as 2020, fires have been minimal. This is thanks to the investments made in infrastructure, monitoring equipment and social programmes by committed companies like GAR and others in the palm oil sector.
We acknowledge that there are still small areas within our concession areas that are impacted by fire every year. GAR is completely transparent and reports all fire incidents on a weekly basis on its website. We also report on the causes of the fires as well as actions taken. Even a cursory examination of these publicly available records will show that most fires start outside GAR estates. They are also mostly caused by third parties either through land clearing or simple negligence such as dumping cigarette butts or leaving open campfires burning. This is in line with the conclusions from an independent online platform Global Forest Watch – initiated by World Resource Institute and partners, which reported that the vast majority of fires in 2019 occurred outside palm oil concessions.
Due to this, we believe it is essential to continue to work closely with local governments and with communities to prevent and manage forest fires and haze. To date, 32 villages in the most fire-prone areas in West Kalimantan, Jambi and Riau are taking part in our long-term fire prevention programme or Desa Makmur Peduli Api (DMPA). As a result, these villages have shown a consistent improvement in reducing firespots and fires since 2016.
Despite the current Covid-19 situation, we continue to work with communities on long-term fire prevention and shifting of mindsets. Earlier this year, we launched an educational initiative targeting school children in fire-prone villages. We are using a children’s book which we created, entitled Rumbun and Jungle Friends, to help teachers educate elementary school students on the importance of preventing forest and land fires. To date, we have carried out dedicated remote training workshops for nearly 400 teachers and reached around 700 participants through online podcasts. This initiative demonstrates our firm commitment to long-term fire prevention even in the midst of a challenging global pandemic.
Our other fire prevention and restoration projects are also continuing on track during the pandemic. We are continuing to rehabilitate, replant and maintain water levels in the Peat Ecosystem Rehabilitation project involving a 2,600 hectare area of peatland in PT AMNL in West Kalimantan. To date, we have replanted over 800 hectares in collaboration with with partners like L’Oréal and Southpole.
In recent years we have also improved our fire monitoring using drones and on-the-ground verification and this is detailed in our annual Sustainability Reports, including the most recent SR2019. This is what allows us to post up to date fire incident reports on our Sustainability Dashboard.
Our efforts on the ground are long-term, strategic and focused on tackling the root causes of fires in Indonesia. We are open to fresh ideas and welcome new collaborations with all concerned stakeholders. We hope that Greenpeace will demonstrate a similar constructive approach in the future as this complex and urgent issue requires serious and resolute multi-stakeholder collaboration.