If one looks at the threat of heavy punishments for those setting forest fires, common sense says it is unlikely corporations would do this. Indonesian laws and regulations impose heavy sanctions on companies found to have deliberately set forest and land fires. The sanctions include imprisonment and heavy fines.
Article 78 paragraph 3 and paragraph 4 of the 2009 Forestry Law stipulates sentences of from five to 15 years or a fine of Rp 5 billion at the maximum for perpetrators of forest fires; while article 187 of the Criminal Code threatens a sentence of 12 years. Article 48 paragraph 1 of the 2004 Plantations Law, Article 108 of the 2009 Environmental Protection and Management Law stipulates sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to Rp 10 billion.
Then there is Government Regulation No. 1502000 on the control of land damage for biomass production with sanctions against perpetrators, and referring to the 1997 Environment Management Law, which stipulates that perpetrators of environmental crimes are subject to: (1) confiscation of benefits obtained from the criminal acts; and/or (2) closure of whole or part of the company; and/or (3) reparation due to the criminal acts; and/or (4) obligation to work on what has been neglected without any rights; and/or (5) nullifying what has been neglected without any right; and/or (6) putting the company under supervision for three years at a maximum.
An examination of the weight of the sanctions and punishments imposed on perpetrators of land fires in corporations, shows it is hard to believe that plantation owners would risk their investments worth trillions of rupiah by setting forest and land fires to clear land to save a few billion rupiah. It would seem that only irrational entrepreneurs would carry out land clearance by burning.
Besides the heavy punishments, losses resulting from forest and land fires also cause declines in productivity of oil palm plantations. Results of a study by the Oil Palm Research Center disclose that impacts of drought alone (Table) can reduce productivity by 28-41 percent and yields by 06-2.5. Meanwhile, haze affects the process of formation and growth of oil palm fruit, thereby reducing productivity by about 0.2-5.5 percent. This means the potential loss per hectare due to declining productivity caused by forest and land fires in the surrounding areas could reach up to Rp 12-15 million per hectare.
Table: Losses suffered by oil palm plantations due to drought and haze
|Description||Impacts of Drought & Haze|
|A. Productivity Decline (%)||0.2-5.5*|
|Age 9-20 year||28-31**|
|Age> 20 year||29-41**|
|B. Yield Decline (%)||0.6-2.5**|
Source: PPKS. * only haze ** only drought
With such potential losses in oil palm plantations caused by haze from fires, it is difficult to believe that oil palm plantations either individually or collectively carry out burning, which would cause losses to themselves. It is also difficult for common sense to accept that oil palm plantations deliberately left land fires in the surrounding areas unattended as that would cause losses in the form of productivity declines. Of course all have to share the responsibility for extinguishing fires, regardless of who initiates them.