14 April 2014
Leading up to Earth Day on April 22, the Riau haze has become one of major the environmental topics under discussion.
In recent years, Riau has come under the international media spotlight at least once a year due to the major fires there, set to clear land for agriculture. In June last year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono even felt the need to publicly apologize to neighboring countries for the haze generated by the fires — while overlooking the fact that residents of Riau were the worst affected by the smoke.
The irresponsible act of slash-and-burn clearing for farmland can be attributed to the outdated thinking that the forest is considered more valuable when it is cut, and not when it remains standing, functioning as the lungs of the Earth.
In a report by Nigel Sizer from the World Resources Institute, Global Forest Watch found 3,101 hot spots in Sumatra this year. A remarkable 87 percent of the fires were in Riau, and half of them came from concessions held by pulpwood, oil palm and logging companies. Some of the largest fires were found on fully developed plantations that had committed to eliminating fire from their practices.
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