IBTimes UK

Indonesia government has suspended land-clearing licences of 27 companies, which were found responsible for the land and forest fires, leading to the haze crisis last year.

The Environment and Forest Ministry officials said that the decision was taken after the companies failed to prevent fires in their concession lands, which resulted in one of the worst environmental crises for South-east Asia in recent history.

Apart from the sanctions, the ministry has also filed civil law suits against five oil palm companies allegedly responsible for some of last year's fires.

"We carried out verification whenever there were fire (incidents), and we learnt that they were the companies (behind the fires)," Jasmin Ragil Utomo, the environmental dispute settlement director, told AFP.

"Even if the companies have taken precautionary measures, they are still responsible," he added.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on Monday that legal steps are the last resort to solve this issue, after the companies failed to "correct their mistakes and improve".

The officials said: "Indonesia's tough action on firms and policies, as well as improved system of monitoring, better technology and more coordinated operations by patrol teams in the field have helped to keep the number of hot spots down."

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed that two of their satellites have recorded 1,043 hot spots from Jan 1 to July 9 over Indonesia, which is only a third of the number of fires detected in the same period last year.

Siti also said the ministry has already issued strict warnings to three companies for forest fires. Several firms, such as the timber estate firm, Sumatera Riang Lestari, and Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia have already decided to halt deforestation, while rubber company Lestari Asri Jaya is still "being chased" to comply with guidelines.

"The director-general has issued a warning and written a letter. If the problem is not fixed in the next one to two days, I will summon them to start legal process," Siti said, adding that although the country has suffered a critical period, they are putting efforts to ensure that the hot spots count remains low.

IBTimes UK