Greenpeace claims Malaysia’s Genting among palm oil groups with most burnt land in Indonesia but firm disputes findings

Ida Nadirah Ibrahim And Zurairi Ar
Smoke covers trees during a forest fire next to a palm plantation in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia September 14, 2019. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group is among the top 10 groups listed as having the largest areas of burnt land in Indonesia between 2015 and 2018, the republic’s chapter of environmental group Greenpeace has claimed.

However, the group, that owns palm oil firm Genting Plantations Bhd, has neither been cited for any fires this year nor has it been blamed for this year’s haze by the group or Indonesian authorities.

The report had cited the data as an example of lack of enforcement action by the Indonesian government, saying the 10 groups have not had their palm oil licences revoked by the Indonesian government, and have not received any sanctions despite repeated fires.

“Stopping this recurring fire crisis should have been at the top of the government’s agenda since 2015. But our findings show the reality: empty words and weak and inconsistent law enforcement against companies,” its forests campaign global head Kiki Taufik said in a statement.

Genting Plantations owns nearly 183,000 hectares of land spread across four estates in West, Central and South Kalimantan. It also owns four oil mills there.

According to Greenpeace, 8,100 hectares of land owned by Genting has been burnt by its concessionaires between 2015 and 2018.

 

 

 

Its subsidiary PT Globalindo Agung Lestari in Central Kalimantan was also among the top 10 companies with the most burnt land by its concessionaires, at 5,000 hectares — around one-eighth of the total 40,993 hectares it owns.

Greenpeace said 434 hotspots have been detected at lands belonging to Genting Plantations up until September 16 last week. This would make it the most number of hotspots among the 10 groups listed.

In addition, 297 of those hotspots were done by concessionaires of Globalindo, similarly the highest number among the top 10 companies listed.

 

 

 

In a response to the Malaysiakini news portal, Genting Plantations insisted that the highlighted areas were primarily outside its subsidiary’s land.

"This is in line with our internal data for 2016-2018, whereby 6.8ha of Globalindo Agung Lestari's land experienced burning.

"Our maps also show 203ha of community-owned land the encountered burning. These community-owned lands were cultivated with other crops and not with oil palm," it told Malaysiakini.

Genting Plantations also said it has extended this information to Greenpeace and stressed that it employed a “zero-burn” policy on all its property.

According to Greenpeace, its conclusion came from a mapping analysis using official “burn scar” data from Indonesia’s Forestry and Environment Ministry, which showed over 3.4 million hectares of land burned between 2015 and 2018.

The data was then compared with available concession data on palm oil and pulp companies as well as administrative and civil law sanctions against those companies, through freedom of information requests and official government reports.

This comes as Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar named four Malaysian-owned companies that were sealed off due to causing the forest fires: Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad’s PT Adei Plantation and Industry, Sime Darby Plantation Berhad’s unit Sime Indo Agro based in West Kalimantan; IOI Corporation Bhd’s unit Sukses Karya Sawit; and TDM Berhad unit Rafi Kamajaya Abadi.

In response, IOI denied that its Indonesian subsidiary was told by the Indonesian government that its land had been sealed off due to forest fires.

Sime Darby Plantation also claimed that Indonesian authorities had not taken “any action” to seal off the operations of PT Sime Indo Agro, that is part of its Indonesian subsidiary Minamas Group.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace also urged Putrajaya to continue to form its own Transboundary Haze Act similar to Singapore, to punish Malaysian companies causing haze in other countries.

“Tackling forest fires is not only Indonesia's responsibility alone. Both the Malaysian and Indonesia governments need to look at where the fires are burning, why, and who is behind them to hold the main culprits behind the fires accountable; especially now that haze from Indonesia forest fires are spreading beyond the country's boundaries, including Malaysia,” said Greenpeace Malaysia campaigner Heng Kiah Chun.

As Asean leaders had in 2014 failed to come up with strong implementation of the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, the group said that this has prolonged and made the haze more severe in parts of the region.

“This time, Asean members must cooperate with the government of Indonesia to tackle this problem once and for all and work together, taking effective action to implement a Transboundary Haze Pollution Act to hold reckless companies accountable,” said Heng.

Last week, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Putrajaya may enact a law to go after Malaysian companies with estates abroad that cause air pollution and smog around South-east Asia.