©Greenpeace/Joris van Gennip

How palm oil companies like IOI have set Indonesia on fire

Blog by: Adi Prabowo

When most citizens of the Netherlands were still asleep, my colleague Nilus and I – along with dozens of Greenpeace activists – moved quickly and slipped into Rotterdam’s port facilities. The temperatures is just 8 degrees Celsius, my first time ever being this cold.

 

IOI Palm Oil Company Blockade in Rotterdam Harbour, 27 Sep, 2016

 

But our mission must not fail: we are blockading the entry of dirty palm oil to IOI’s refineries, one of the largest palm oil companies in the world.

Thousands of kilometers away from Rotterdam, in our hometown in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, forest fires occur every year. Fire has destroyed the peat forests and brought orangutans close to extinction. IOI opens up palm oil plantations by drying out the peat, which makes it very flammable, leading to disastrous fires.

 

Burnt Forest in West Kalimantan, 3 Dec 2015

Burnt Forest in West Kalimantan, 3 Dec 2015

 

Last year, peat fires created huge amounts of pollution – 43 million Indonesian people were exposed to smoke, including both Nilus and myself. I read a recent study from Harvard and Columbia universities that estimated there were over 100,000 premature deaths across South East Asia in 2015 due to smoke pollution from the fires, over 91,000 of those deaths were in Indonesia. I have known Nilus for several years. He has two children who live in Ketapang, the location where IOI has damaged the peat, leading to enormous fires. As a result, smoke was inhaled by Nilus and his family for years.

 

Haze covers children's playground in Central Kalimantan, 24 Oct, 2015

Haze covers children’s playground in Central Kalimantan, 24 Oct, 2015

 

I came to Rotterdam to take action, blocking the entry of this palm oil. The world must know the human costs contained in the products they consume every day. IOI’s palm oil is dirty and damaged. IOI must stop destroying Indonesia’s peat forests.

Together, Nilus and I have joined a fire-fighting teams formed by Greenpeace Indonesia. The team is composed of 20 volunteers from several regions in Indonesia. We are not only trained in how to extinguish fires, but much more importantly also trained how to prevent fires. We do this because we want to end this era of fires and haze in Indonesia. Extinguishing fires is hard work, but it is important to protect the forests and peatlands. More importantly, palm oil companies need to make sure they do not create the conditions that allow fires to start so easily. Millions of people should not have their health damaged by smoke and fires just because plantation companies such as IOI are burning and destroy the forest for their own profit.

More importantly, palm oil companies need to make sure they do not create the conditions that allow fires to start so easily. Millions of people should not have their health damaged by smoke and fires just because plantation companies such as IOI are burning and destroy the forest for their own profit.

two activists sitting outside IOI refineries

Copyright: Greenpeace/Marten van Dijl