You just don’t mess with words! One missing word can mean different entirely. Or, worse, all hell let lose….

My colleagues and me were dumbfounded as “President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo instructed for canalization to tackle fires in Central Kalimantan”, as titled in setkab.go.id.

Presiden menegaskan, kunci mengatasi kebakaran hutan dan lahan di Kalteng ada di kanal, kanalisasi yang memang harus dikejar. Untuk itu, Presiden Jokowi mengaku telah memberikan perintah ke BNPB, ke Kementerian Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan agar dibuat kanalnya secepat-cepatnya, dan nantinya akan dikerjakan Zeni (TNI AD) yang mobilisasinya cepat.

[(The) President underlined (that) the key to tackle forest and land fires in Central Kalimantan (lies) in the canals, canalization must be pushed. Hence, President Jokowi claimed that he had instructed BNPB, Ministry of Environment and Forestry to build canals as soon as possible, which would be done by the Army for faster mobilization].

Out of confusions, environment journos then worked out several ‘assumptions’ : (1) President Jokowi did say that. (2) President’s slip of the tongue. (3) Media misquoted his statement. (4) Setkab misquoted the President resulted in plenty of misquotes in media, even in highly respected media, such as Tempo (which then renewed its title but still using the same content), Metro TV, Elshinta, and Republika.

Why does it matter? Because, CANALIZATION aka building canals means DRAINING PEATLANDS which RESULTED TO FIRES. Here’s how it works : companies build canals to let out the water from peats, after dried, then they are able to plant anything.

The catch is dried peats are prone to fires and hard to extinguish. It’s not rocket science! All experts, activists, and even government blame these canals for forest fires. And, one way to prevent it to happen is to build CANAL BLOCK or CANAL DYKES.

Blocking the canal and building the canal is a completely different term and meaning. I even checked with Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language dictionary) that “kanalisasi/ka·na·li·sa·si/ n 1 perihal pembuatan kanal (terusan); 2 ki penyaluran (rasa tidak puas dsb).”

I was not present when he said these statements so dare not to make any assumptions. Though, up to date, there has yet any retraction or clarification on the statement so we can highly suspect that he did say that.

IF he did got slip of the tongue, then the [environment and forestry] ministry need to rectify the situation because people just gonna plainly read it.

IF not, then the minister is still need to lots of explaining to do and prepare for the storm to hit.

Either way, I don’t think good environment journos will let this go that easy (I hope).

Speaking of which, whoever written the story are just plain ignorant! Seriously! Do these media even bother to ask second opinions???? Ask experts??? Or, ask those covering these issues???

For whatever reasons, I don’t think you can be ‘casual’ with terms, especially scientific-based (canalization has been subject to many peats researches). You don’t reduce it to something ‘popular’ because some know they meant completely different.

On this case, clarification matters a lot. And, may this become a lesson learned for officials and media to ‘mind their words’.

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