A helicopter sprays water on a burning forest near Dumai in Riau province, Indonesia, April 5, 2018. (Source:Antara)

Hanoi (VNA) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo has issued a permanent moratorium on new forest clearance for activities such as palm plantations or logging, according to Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

The moratorium, which covers around 66 million hectares of primary forest and peatland, was applied in 2011 and has been renewed regularly as part of the country’s efforts to reduce emissions from fires caused by deforestation.

Under the decision, ministers, governors and other officials were asked to stop issuing new permits for forest clearance activities in within the moratorium area.

The moratorium decision comes after local authorities declared an emergency in six provinces on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo where smoke from outbreaks of forest fires have started causing acute respiratory infections.

According to Greenpeace, Indonesia has had one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, with more than 74 million hectares of rainforest – an area nearly twice the size of Japan – logged, burned or degraded in the last half century.-VNA