The Palm Scribe

Groups Declare State of Humanitarian Emergency over Indonesia Fires

A group of non-governmental organizations and a UN office is declaring a state of humanitarian emergency over forest and ground fires that have raged Sumatra and Borneo islands and cast a thick haze over the region, causing serious health and traffic hazard.

“Considering the suffering of the people because of the smoke haze up until this day, we, therefore declare a ‘Humanitarian Emergency’ condition in Indonesia,” said the group in a joint press release on Tuesday (24/9).

The group which comprises Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI) Kemitraan, HuMa, MDMC Muhammadyah, HFI, Rumah Zakat and and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCH) also ended their statement urging on President Joko Widodo to “show a sense of crisis and show a leadership in saving the people of Indonesia from a concrete danger that threatens life.”

Besides calling on the authorities at the center and in the region to provide optimal protection for the firefighters who are risking their health and even life in battling the fires, it also called for the opening government offices and buildings to accommodate evacuees and people fleeing the haze. It also called on the minister of health to provide free medical treatment for those affected by the haze and on the minister for social affairs to build safe houses and houses provided with oxygen relief supplies in isolated areas and especially for the vulnerable such as the elderly and infants.

The group said that the almost annual reoccurrence of the forest and ground fires showed the failure of the government in managing natural resources and in taking care of its citizens. It also showed the failure of the government in anticipating the expected fires.

In order to prevent a future reoccurrence of the fires and to deter businesses which do not comply with good industrial operational principles, the group called on the president to come out with a Government Regulation in Lieu of Law on Crimes against the Environment.

The group also called for the identifications of those plantations where fires raged and revoke the right to use the said land granted to companies. It also said that data on this land usage permit should be made available to the public.

It called for the revocation of the various permits and concessions granted on land where fires were found and for the national police chief to summon and question leaders of companies with burning concessions.

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