Forest and land fires in Riau seem to be a curse every year. January to March 2019, the area reaches more than two thousand hectares. Forest and land fires in this oil and gas rich region have even embarrassed presidential candidate number 01 Joko Widodo (Jokowi). In the second presidential candidates debate, on February 17, Jokowi said there had been no more forest and land fires in the past three years.
In fact, as of February 2019, at that time, forest fires in Riau had exceeded 800 hectares. Jokowi at the time stated that the government had succeeded in drastically reducing forest and land fires along with strict law enforcement. He also said that there were 11 companies that had been sanctioned, with a fantastic fine amounting to IDR 18.3 trillion.
As if not wanting to embarrass the incumbent in this political year, the Directorate General of Law Enforcement of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (LHK) has called six companies in Riau Province indicated have hotspots in their concessions. The LHK Ministry of Forestry’s Director of Control, Raffles Panjaitan, said that they called the six companies in Riau, last week.
Although he was reluctant to specify their name, Raffles explained that the corporations summoned were oil palm plantation companies and also industrial timber plantations (HTI), especially in the Rupat Bengkalis and Rokan Hilir areas. The summons was claimed to ascertain whether many hotspots had occurred since the beginning of the year in the two regions, entered into company concessions, or in the concession area. In addition, an explanation will also be asked whether at the time forest and land around the company got burned, actions were taken to help suppress the fire.
Until now according to the data from the local Disaster Management Agency, the area burned in Riau Province as of January to March 2019 reached 2,830 hectares. The most burned area in Bengkalis Regency, touched the number of 1,284 hectares. Interestingly, the largest palm oil company in Bengkalis Regency is PT Mahkota Group Tbk, which was established in Riau, in 2002. Floating in July 2018, Mahkota managed to book an IPO fund of approximately IDR 150 billion.
Mahkota is a new company with extraordinary developments. Not in the acceleration of land owned, but in the acceleration of the development of palm oil downstream facilities, starting from the refinery plant to the kernel crushing plant located at Jalan Duri Dumai, Bathin Sobanga Village, Bengkalis Regency, Riau. The factory functions to conduct a purification system that can produce derivative products of olein (edible oil) and sterin (raw materials for margarine and oleochemicals) and other derivative products. In other words, this company has enormous potential to progress and develop rapidly in the future.
Then, what is the connection with forest fires that are increasingly widespread in Riau? Using data from the Forum for the Environment (Walhi), one of the most aggressive environmental activists in Riau, it turns out that Bengkalis Regency is an area with illegal permit findings at least in 2018. In fact, based on Riau BPBD data, Bengkalis is the most severely affected by this forest. The table below explains this further.
Not only related to the lack of illegal licenses, Bengkalis Regency is also a district with the least exposure to floods.
This data clearly shows how the majority of companies operating in Bengkalis Regency have successfully carried out business practices that are detrimental to both humans and the environment. Why towards the early semester of 2019, the status of Bengkalis has changed to become the hottest point in Riau’s forest fires? Does this happen because of natural phenomena or more serious than that, deliberate fire with business competition motives for example? Nobody dared to confirm until now.
Until April 24, 2019, the area of forest and burned land in the Riau region reached nearly three thousand hectares. Approximately 2,935.69 hectares, said Head of the Riau Disaster Management Agency (BPBD), Edwar Sanger, in a written statement, as quoted by Kompas.com. Here are the details: 1. Rohul: 2 hectares 2. Rohil: 460.25 hectares 3. Dumai: 242.75 hectares 4. Bengkalis: 1,299.83 hectares 5. Meranti: 232.4 hectares 6. Siak: 328.75 hectares 7. Pekanbaru: 46.01 hectares 8. Kampar: 55.1 hectares 9. Pelalawan: 77 hectares 10. Inhu: 71.5 hectares 11. Inhil: 115.1 hectares 12. Kuansing: 5 hectares.
Most of the forest and burned land has been extinguished by the Riau Forestry Task Force team. In addition to the efforts of officers, it was also assisted by rain. For information, in this case of forest and land fires, police officers have arrested 15 people as suspects.