Land clearance for plantations causal to Indonesia's forest fires

Land clearance for plantations causal to Indonesia's forest fires

An aerial view of palm oil plantations on fire. (photo: antara documentation/ FA).

The fire will not break out on its own, but human beings do it.
Jakarta (ANTARA) - Rasio Ridho Sani, director general of law enforcement of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry, pointed to the slash-and-burn deforestation technique to make way for plantations as among the three factors causing forest fires.

"Fire will not break out on its own, but human beings do it," he stated during a polemic talk here on Saturday.

Forest fires are often linked to plantations, corporations, and farmers that employ the easy and cheap practice of slash-and-burn clearance.

There is a dire need to change the mindset of corporations and people and enforce the law strictly and indiscriminately against arsonists.

Related news: Terra, Aqua satellites identify 1,182 forest fire hotspots in Sumatra

Fires can also be triggered by a damaged peatland ecosystem, for which human activities have also been found to be responsible.

"The peatland ecosystem is damaged due to plantations owned by the community or corporations. They usually change wet peatland into dry to plant trees," he pointed out.

Since 2019, the ministry has imposed administrative or criminal sanctions on violators of existing regulations.

The ministry has been cooperating with the police and courts to also penalize those setting fires to forest areas.

In 2015, a total of 65 corporations were convicted of being guilty, but only three companies lost their business licenses as a form of punishment, while the rest merely received administrative sanctions.

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He stated that owing to the lenient punishments, several of those companies again set fires this year.

In the meantime, the Terra and Aqua satellites tracked 1,182 hotspots suggestive of forest fires throughout Sumatra Island on Saturday. Jambi Province had the largest number, reaching 499 hotspots, followed by 391 in South Sumatra, and 198 in Riau, the Pekanbaru meteorology, climatology, and geophysics station reported in Pekanbaru, Riau Province, on Saturday.

Some 40 hotspots were found in Bangka Belitung, 33 in Lampung, nine in Riau Island, eight in West Sumatra, and two each in Bengkulu and North Sumatra. In Riau Province, 74 hotspots were found in Indragiri Hilir, 57 in Rokan Hilir, 28 in Pelalawan, 17 in Bengkalis, 14 in Indragiri Hulu, four in Kuansing, and two each in Meranti and Kampar.

At least 129 fire spots of forest fires were confirmed in Riau, with the largest number found in Indragiri Hilir, reaching 47; while 38 were spotted in Rohan Hilir; and 18 in Pelalawan.

Forest fires in Riau produced smog that reduced visibility to 700 meters in Pekanbaru, 400 meters in Pelalawan, and 500 meters in Rengat Town, Indragiri Hili.

The air pollutant standard index in Pekanbaru indicated that air quality in the provincial capital city is very unhealthy.

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