Sime Darby clears itself of blame, Malaysia gets a haze break
Satellite data of fires matched to plantation areas show that Sime Darby Plantation is not involved with slash-and-burn land clearing in Indonesia, the Malaysian listed palm oil company said today.
However, the company admitted to having identified three spots with forest fires on its land that are occupied by local communities. The firm denied involvement as they are outside its areas of operation and jurisdiction.
Based on information provided by the firm, 20% of its land is occupied by local communities. Sime Darby owns 39,498 hectares in Riau, a region where forest fires had caused the haze in Malaysia and Singapore.
It made the statement after it received a directive from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an association of which the company is a member. RSPO had requested three Malaysian companies to submit digital maps of the firms’ plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan for its investigation into allegations of slash-and-burn practices by palm oil firms.
Forest fires in Sumatra occur mainly within peatlands, as shown on satellite imageries released by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Since fires that begin on peatlands can smoulder underground, fires started by locals on individually farmed land could spread without being detected.
Greenpeace, an environmental organisation, has said on its website that Indonesian law allows for development on peatlands which are prone to catching fire when drained of water.
Activists have put the blame on firms ordering locals to start the fires on individually run farms, allowing the fire to spread to the plantations next to them.
Amidst the furore over who’s at fault for the many hotspots, the haze has cleared considerably in Malaysia today. At 4pm, only three areas had unhealthy levels. They are Bukit Rambai in Malacca at 106, Nilai and Seremban in Negeri Sembilan at 153 and 104 respectively.
The air pollutant index (API) at Port Klang dropped to 97, a far cry from the hazardous 481 it registered yesterday morning. Residents in Kuala Lumpur, meanwhile, can breathe a sigh of relief as the API dropped to 82. – June 26, 2013.