The Fire-Free Village Program is a form of support from PT RAPP and the April Group in helping the government to prevent and overcome land and forest fires (Kahutla) that occur in Riau Province. The program has now been running in five Karhutla-prone districts such as Bengkalis, Pelalawan, Indragiri Hilir, Meranti and Siak.
Every year, villages that have succeeded in freeing themselves from Karhutla will receive funds in the form of infrastructure development assistance worth Rp100 million. Management of the funds is handed over to the village to build the required infrastructure.
The program has succeeded in fostering the awareness of the people living in villages around the company's operational areas of the dangers and impacts of fires, especially the use of slash-and-burn methods to open agricultural land.
As a result, the incidence of fires every year in the FFVP area continues to decrease. In 2014, the burned area reached 0.18 percent of the total area covered. "While in 2015, 2016 and 2017, they fell to 0.01 percent, 0.07 percent and 0.03 percent respectively. In 2018, the area that was burned black decreased to 0.02 percent of the total area covered," he said.
In 2019, the Fire Free Village Program was expanded to include nine new villages and also involved PT Sumatera Riang Lestari, which is a partner of the largest paper company in Riau.
Of the nine villages, three of them were guided by RAPP namely Rangsang, Sungai Ara and Pangkalan Terap located in Pelalawan District. While six villages are under SRL, namely the Terkul and Batu Panjang Villages in Bengkalis District, Tanjung Medang and Sungai Gayung Kiri in the Meranti Islands District and Teluk Kiambang and Karya Tunas Jaya in Inhil District.
In addition to embracing nine new villages, the company also presented an award of Rp100 million which was used for the purposes of building local village infrastructure. The nine villages are Dedap, Kudap, Bagan Melibur, Mayang Sari, Mekar Sari, Mekar Delima, Pelantai, Bumi Asri, and Teluk Belitung.
"The last three years we have not experienced a big fire. Even though there are, but not disturbing, it does not cause children to stop school and the economy runs well," The head of Riau's Environment and Forestry Service, Ervin Rizaldi said.
Rizaldi hopes that the program can continue to be improved by reaching more Karhutla-prone villages. He said that most of the villages in Riau are on peat so it is very prone to burning when entering the dry season.