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How palm oil companies like IOI have set Indonesia on fire

Thursday, October 6, 2016 7:07
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(Before It's News)

This morning, while most of the Netherlands was still asleep, my colleague Nilus and I – along with dozens of Greenpeace activists – slipped into Rotterdam’s port facilities. The temperature is just eight degrees celsius, my first time ever being this cold.

IOI Palm Oil Company Blockade in Rotterdam Harbour, 27 Sept 2016. © Greenpeace / Marten van DijlIOI Palm Oil Company Blockade in Rotterdam Harbour, 27 Sept 2016

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

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

Burnt Forest in West Kalimantan, 3 Dec 2015. © Ulet Ifansasti / GreenpeaceBurnt 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.

Residents near burning peat forest in the village of Teluk Meranti, Pelalawan, Riau., 4 Mar 2014.© Rony Muharrman / GreenpeaceResidents near burning peat forest in the village of Teluk Meranti, Pelalawan, Riau, 4 Mar 2014

I have known Nilus for several years. He has two children who live in Ketapang, where IOI has damaged the peat, leading to enormous fires. Nilus and his family have been breathing in peat smoke for years.

Haze in Central Kalimantan, 24 Oct, 2015. © Ardiles Rante / GreenpeaceHaze covers children’s playground in Central Kalimantan, 24 Oct, 2015

I came to Rotterdam to take action. To block this palm oil from entering Europe. The world must know the human cost contained in the products they consume every day. IOI’s palm oil is dirty and damaged. IOI must stop destroying Indonesia’s peat forests.

IOI Palm Oil Company Blockade in Rotterdam Harbour, 27 Sep, 2016. © Greenpeace / Marten van DijlIOI Palm Oil Company Blockade in Rotterdam Harbour, 27 Sep, 2016

Together, Nilus and I have joined a fire-fighting teams formed by Greenpeace Indonesia. The team is composed of 20 volunteers from several regions across my country. We are not only trained in how to extinguish fires, but much more importantly, trained in 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.

Orangutan Rescued in West Kalimantan, 18 Sep, 2015. © Galih Nofrio Nanda / GreenpeaceOrangutan Rescued in West Kalimantan, 18 Sep, 2015

Millions of people should not have their health damaged by smoke and fires just because plantation companies such as IOI destroy forests for their own profit.

Today we showed the world who IOI really is and the threat they are to my country’s forests and my people’s health. But beating these fires is not over. Now Nilus and I return to Indonesia to continue to protect out forests from companies like IOI.

Join us.

Adi Prabowo is a trainee firefighter with Greenpeace Indonesia

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

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