What price are we willing to pay to make a profit? Last year, huge multinational plantations used blazes to clear over 10,000 square miles of forests and in the process caused a massive health problem for citizens of Southeast Asia which was estimated to result in a $16 billion economic loss. In addition to the sickening haze that spread over the entire region, these blazes also ravaged the natural environment and the organisms that call this area home. This region is home to the majority of wild orangutans left in the world, with at least nine orangutans killed in these corporate blazes. Although this Indonesian providence is equipped with the largest primate rehabilitation center in the world, a spike in facility-housed primates over recent years shows just how poorly government initiatives are at protecting the rich biodiversity in this region.
Although laws are in effect to protect the environment, “enforcement is lax.” Several criminal investigations are underway against these major corporations but not a single case has had any headway over the last year. Unless proper measures are taken to freeze the deforestation in this region, this problem is likely to continue. Due to the severity of last year’s fires, the government has deployed a new mission to prevent land from rights being gained by these corporations and has encouraged them to increase productivity on the land they do possess as opposed to cutting down more forest. Rehabilitation worker Eman Supriyadi said, “Investment is good, but so is the environment, there has to be a balance.” Hopefully as these new initiatives are deployed, this lopsided scenario does as Eman said and regains some balance. Achieving this goal is not only crucial to the primate species within the area, but also to the Indonesian citizens in the area who should be safe from the harmful side effects these fires cause.