Minister Zulkifli Hasan during his visit to Pekanbaru on Wednesday noted that Riau has become an attraction for oil palm growers, as its land is flat and fertile that has incredible potential for oil palm plantation.
However, the size of the existing oil palm plantation in the province is too large, the minister said. Four of the eight million hectares of plantation area of Riau Province has been used for growing oil palm.
"Theoretically, additional permit may not be issued," the minister affirmed.
"Only two million of the total four million hectares of oil palm plantation area have official permit for forest conversion," the minister pointed out.
A total four million hectares should not be utilized for oil palm plantation alone, but also for rubber and sago plantations.
Meanwhile, the two million hectares of illegal oil palm plantation has been existing for at least 10-15 years, the minister explained.
The new land conversion for oil palm plantation may endanger the ecosystem, as the planters may use areas on the peat land or in the conservation areas such as Tesso Nilo National Park.
On the occasion, Minister Hasan was very appreciative with the work of Riau Police in enforcing the law on forest conservation and preventing forest fires.
The government and the law enforcement will not show discrimination in cracking down the perpetrators of forest fires.
From January until July, the local police has arrested 189 suspects allegedly involved in causing forest fires.
"More suspects may be caught as our team is still hunting them down," Spokesperson of Riau Police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo added.
(Reported by FB Anggoro/Uu.A059/INE/KR-BSR/B003)