Climate Justice of Palm Oil Pollution in Indonesia
Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s biggest suppliers of palm oil. The agricultural product has been a subject of environmental debate because the operations leading to the development’s delivery impact the environment negatively. The investment into commercial palm oil plantation involves clearing forests to provide space for palm oil fields. A host of activities related to the palm oil farming operations have been linked directly and indirectly to climate change and human rights violations, among other environmental injustices. The economic activity has far-reaching impacts on the environment and the livelihoods of the Indonesians. The focus of climatic justice is to establish the regions affected in the interest of creating sustainability between environment and humanitarian needs in the face of palm oil economics. The forest cover has been destroyed to create room for palm oil fields and that is causing climate change concerns for the people of Indonesia.
The Indonesian authorities’ efforts to address the issues associated with commercial palm oil plantation are considered a mockery ofprotecting the environment (Pacheco, Gnych, Dermawan, Komarudin, Okarda, p25). Climate justice seeks to broaden the focus on climate change to include the non-greenhouse gases around human rights. The element of pollution attributed to palm oil farming is that gaseous nitrogen oxides group products that are volatile organic compounds will be released into the atmosphere when the ground surface is exposed to the sunlight. Not many people know this, but it turns out that trees especially palm trees emit high levels of VOC pollutants, including oil palms and poplars. While it may not quantify the pollution, effect created by the volatile organic compounds, it is clear that under a stable forest cover, the same compounds will remain contained underground. When in the atmosphere VOC pollutants is beneficial for the formation of ozone layer which acts as a shield for dangerous ultraviolet radiation with its interaction with nitrogen oxides (NOx). Nevertheless, at ground or underground level it is actually a very damaging chemical, which can increase greenhouse effect by competing with atmospheric oxidants and preventing them from destroying methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, respiratory problems, and plant damage.
Despite the presumed economic empowerment of the locals through ownership of palm oil plantations, the palm oil industry has taken away the business opportunities in other sectors like fishing, which has affected other people’s livelihoods (Anna, Kaijsera & Annica, Kronsellb, p417). The quality of water has declined and hurts aquatic life and the economic activities associated with marine life. Chemical exposure has been one issue attributed to herbicides in the management of palm oil plantation. One chemical that is of particular interest is Paraquat whose toxic levels in the water have increased notably. Paraquat, also maybe known as Methyl Viologen, is a toxic chemical that is widely used as an herbicide or plant killer for the use of weed and grass control in palm oil plantations to clear out the forest. The concern for this chemical is its risks to workers at the plantations, it can be fatal if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin, and what’s most frightening is that currently there is no cure for paraquat poisoning.Considering that some of the effects of this contamination are paused a danger who rely on fish as part of the food source, it is essential to appreciate the need to have advanced measures on the same issue (Maksuk, Maksuk, p467). Other than the effects of the same herbicides on aquatic life, the same danger is also posed on humans who depend on the same water for domestic use.
Subsequently, different international advocacy groups and individuals passionate about environmental protection and human rights advocates have raised their concern with the growing rate of deforestation. The situation in Indonesia means that the pollution effect arising out of declining forest cover will rise.Human rights issues attributed to the palm oil plantation relates to slave-like working conditions for the locals. Some of the people who have worked in the same firms have had to quit and explore other opportunities because of theirlow pay against a high workload (Bankoff, Greg, Georg Frerks, & Dorothea Hilhorst, p118). There have been reports indicating corporations and local police’s collusion to forcefully evict people from their dwellings against their will to create room for the corporation.
Besides that, acquiring land for the same purposes has been a subject of unethical means adopted by the state. Occasionally, in cases where land is required to be used by the farms undertaking the oil palm program, compensation must be made to the communities whose land is taken. However, according to SawitWatch, an advocacy group created to investigate the Indonesian forest and review policies and regulation on palm oil plantation, most Indonesian communities are losing their land to the corporation in the palm oil business through unfair and unjust ways. Furthermore, the NGO and advocacy group has raised its concerns with Europe, which is driving the demand for palm oil expansion projects. In this case, they consider that the corporation involved are committing human rights violations and therefore, the EU should take responsibility for the same (Jayakumar, Koh, Robert, Beckman, & Phan. P365). Regions with high demand often take a relaxed position when handling such issues, which is a mockery considering the EU’s response on matters that demeans human dignity in other places within its borders.
Indonesians have been growing rice in their land, but all that is now a target for the palm oil plantations. Southeast Asia is reliant on rice for food security, and the growing interest in palm oil projects is seen as a significant threat to food security. The Indonesian government’s biggest challenge has been to have a balanced policy approach that protects human labor and human rights, protects the environment, and ensures corporations do not add more weight to climate change factors (Mendez, Michael, p5).The role of foreign companies in pushing for policies that favor their operations in Indonesia is demeaning environmental protection efforts. The proponents of the efforts to control palm oil expansion have a valid concern in the future impacts of the environment and the region’s food security concerns. These bodies include NGOs and advocacy groups.
Some smallholder farmers who are partaking in the palm oil business cannot access better quality seedlings, which means they are not getting the best out of the business (Li, Tania, p3). Besides that, they still impact the environment negatively in the same as the large scale corporations. The gap between the performance of farms under smallholders is unimaginable, attributed to a host of factors. The palm oil business is an ample opportunity that should benefit all the local communities if their land is used in economic activity. Therefore, the protection of farmers should receive the same attention asother factors do in the whole issue.
Land-use policies have also contributed to the environmental woes attributed to the palm oil business. The Land Use Change policy is not strictly implemented to deter palm oil investors from encroaching into protected areas. The palm oil business has attractive economic benefits, but the ecological and social concerns have driven the conversation on its sustainability to a different level (Austin, p45). Over a decade, sizeable peatlands have been lost, and a good chunk of forest cover to have been lost. Research showed that most of the expansion by smallholder farmers have been on peatlands, while for corporation owned fields, they have targeted community land and forest land. Environmental protection groups, among other activities, consider the Indonesian government’s efforts to avert the situation and forge sustainable mechanisms insufficient.
The course for climate and environmental justice is based on having a future oil plantation with zero-deforestation plans. The government had previously adopted measures barring any permits for any party interested in oil palm agriculture, one forest and peatlands. This efforts’ success has been less than promising, considering that the government has not taken a stronger position to oversee the policy’s full implementation (Varkkey, p35). The annual increment in land under palm oil plantation has been subject to a decrease in the ground under forest cover.Other than impacting human beings, oil palm plantations and related operations are causing a shake in the ecological balance. The view that wildlife is affected by palm oil operations is a real concern because some bird species have been affected. Deforestation activities follow the exhaustion of the palm tree life cycle, which is estimated at 25 years. Before the palm oil tree fields regenerate into the forest, the new forest will become casualties. Measures have to be adopted to ensure the economic activities are not implemented at the expense of the environment and social interest.
In 2015, the president of Indonesia issued an illegal regulation that contravened the efforts on environmental protection. However, the same rule was challenged in the court by green movement activists, and in 2019, upheld the challenge against the presidential regulation. According to Indonesian law, there are protected areas alongside forests, and these locations should not be invaded with palm oil plantations. The political will is considered lagging in the fight against climate change agents like deforestation. The absence of sustainable approaches to the oil palm plantations has been a major driving force in deforestation (Kusumaningtyas, Van Gelder, p24). Efforts to institute sustainability certification have been slow-paced, and that has seen an unjustified expansion of the palm oil field through forest encroachment. Besides that, farmers who participate in this sector of the agriculture industry have little support from the government, which means their operations’ sustainability is limited. While the smallholder farmers are expected to benefit from the business, there is a danger in not having a policy that guides the operations of corporations and the small farmers in their place (Pye, Oliver, &Jayati Bhattacharya, p50).
The action of both farmers and corporations in the Indonesian palm oil industry has an integral impact on climate change. They had the right policies that capture these concerns would offer the greatest hopes to address both the problems of climate change and the effect of palm oil operations on human dignity. The process of climatic justice considers these concerns from an integral point where each factor is viewed based on how they interact independently and collectively to the detriment of human beings and the environment.Theattention that palm oil and other environmental-related activities have gained from the international audience is compelling enough to see through reforms in the industry (Wiggins, Elizabeth., p12421)
The core of climate justice is to chart a new path that ensures a balance between human activities, respect for human rights, and environmental protection. The lack of commitment to legislative efforts is a significant hindrance toIndonesia’s palm oil pollution-related issues. The policy on leases and attractive investment in the 1990s contributed to expanding most plantations under palm oil (Mendez, Michael, p34). The government has not been counted the steps taken back then. There are, however, steps that the ministry of environment I spearheading to will see reforms in land use policies and management of the whole palm oil industry realize the anticipated outcomes.
Therefore, climate justice will focus on the points raised by advocates of sustainable environmental protection in the face of palm oil farming. Human rights issues remain a sticking case that has been submitted by different advocates and takes all angles from taking land from the community in an illegal way to contaminating the environment on which people are reliant for their livelihoods. The government’s efforts through its respective ministries have been slow-paced, but there will be a need to collaborate with other bodies to fast-track the activities in the face of the current situations. The social realities of palm oil farming can no longer be ignored, while the political will needs to double in commitment and action. A relaxed approach means the anticipated gains may take long before any substantive outcome is realized.
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