Bintan, Riau Islands (ANTARA) - The Bintan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) recorded that wildfires have ravaged some 1,500 hectares of land in the Riau Islands Province over the past eight months, and 90 percent of them were caused by slash-and-burn practices.

"Some 90 percent of the wildfires ravaging Bintan District's areas are related to humans activities," Head of Gunung Kijang, Teluk Bintan, and Toapaya Subdistricts' Fire Department, Nurwendi, said here on Wednesday.

The land and forest fires that occurred from January to August were mainly triggered by the acts of irresponsible people who conducted slash-and-burn land clearing practices to open new farmlands, Nurwendi said.

The Bintan District Police have warned local residents to put an end to this unlawful method of clearing the land but many of them still ignore warnings. The police recently arrested two residents, he said.

Apart from law enforcement efforts, wildfires continued to engulf certain areas of Toapaya Selatan Subdistrict on Monday and Tuesday, he said.

Amid this year's dry season, the land and forest fires hit several provinces in the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Several residents of Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan Province, had even been left with no choice but to inhale the thick smoke rising from the wildfire on Tuesday morning.

Tomi, a resident of the Parit Mayor neighborhood area, admitted to breathing in the thick haze with its strong smell, while heading to a mosque to perform Subuh, or the dawn prayer.

Several residents, too, expressed concern over the impact of this thick smog on their health and outdoor activities.

The haze, lofting through the areas of Pontianak, had also reduced visibility to some 150 and 200 meters, he stated, adding that some of his friends were suffering from respiratory infections owing to the smog, caused by the burning of forest and peatland areas.

The thick haze has been blanketing the areas of Pontianak and several other parts of West Kalimantan over these past few weeks as a result of wildfires in the peatland areas, as well as slash and burn activities. Related news: All-out efforts to extinguish wildfires on Sumatra, Kalimantan Islands

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Translator: Ogen, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Suharto
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