Indonesia punishes more than 20 companies over deadly forest fires

Indonesia is punishing more than 20 companies in an unprecedented move for starting deadly forest fires that killed 19 people, a government official said Tuesday. Three companies have been shut down permanently after having their licences revoked over their role in the blazes that choked vast expanses of south-east Asia with acrid haze and cost Indonesia $16 billion. It is the first time the government has revoked company licences over forest fires, an annual occurrence caused by slash-and-burn land clearance.

We need firmer law enforcement so that this catastrophe does not repeat itself, it’s been going on for 18 years but nobody has learnt their lesson.

Environment ministry official Kemal Amas

The environment ministry also froze the operations of 14 companies and said they face closure if they do not meet government demands over fire prevention. Environment ministry official Kemal Amas said the ministry was also working hard to restore the forests and farmland destroyed in the fires. The Indonesian Forum for Environment said it was unheard of for the government to revoke licences, as many companies previously avoided facing trial. More than half a million people suffered acute respiratory infections in Indonesia because of the haze, while many in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia also fell ill.