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Total forested area burnt in Indonesia bigger than Netherlands

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SINGAPORE: Forested areas greater than the size of the Netherlands have been burnt in Indonesia in the past five years, with 30 per cent of the fires occurring on pulpwood and palm oil concessions, environmental group Greenpeace said yesterday.

Greenpeace said analysis of official data showed 4.4 million ha of land burned over 2015 to last year, with 1.3 million ha of that lying in the concession areas.

The group's report said eight of the 10 palm companies with the largest burnt areas in their concessions for the five years have not been sanctioned.

Indonesia's new jobs creation law, which activists say favours businesses at the expense of the environment, is "rolling out a red carpet" for more deforestation, it also said.

"Year after year, they (companies) have broken the law by allowing forests to go up in flames," said head of the Greenpeace South-east Asia forest campaign Kiki Taufik.

Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Three of the five companies Greenpeace said had the largest burnt areas in their concessions from 2015 to last year are suppliers to Indonesia's biggest conglomerate, Sinar Mas Group, and one of the country's largest paper companies, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).

A spokesman for APP, which is part of Sinar Mas Group, said it has spent US$150 million (S$204 million) on a fire management system, and that it continues to help local communities transition away from slash-and-burn land clearing towards more sustainable methods. - REUTERS