The government has issued a list indicating those regencies prone to forest fires, with the West Kalimantan capital of Pontianak heading the list. The list was drawn up based on several variables, including land and forest usage, dry months, short- and long-term average rainfall and interpretation of satellite imagery.
Before the issuance of the list, the Ministry of Forestry had detected thousands of hot spots in the four provinces, many of which were located inforest concessions and industrial estates.
However, the government appears to be reluctant to produce evidence to sue the firms on neglecting the environment and to develop a strategy on extinguishing the fires.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has initiated a move to sue 20 companies and seven local governments in Riau for their negligence in preventing forest fires in their respective areas.
Following Walhi’s initiative, the government expressed its support for any legal recourse pursued against firms that caused forest fires. To date, the director of Malaysian company PT Adei plantation has been sentenced by a local court to two years in jail for starting forest fires. The company was also fined US$1.1 million in compensation to the government, which it agreed to pay.
PT Cipta Daya Sejati, in Kampar regency, was also penalized, but only with light sentences — three employees of the company were sentenced to between three and six months in jail. Meanwhile, Antara reported from Jambi that the local administration was on full alert to tackle forest fires in the province following the recurrence of forest fires in several provinces.
Jambi governor Zulkifli Nurdin called on the people and forestry companies not to burn land in order to clear the land. “Anyone who dares to clear the land with the slash-and-burn method will be punished severely,” he said. The list, presented by the deputy assistant on information at the Office of the State Minister of the Environment, revealed that most of the regencies in North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi and West Kalimantan were prone to forest fires. Over 330,000 hectares of the area within Pontianak’s jurisdiction is categorized as very vulnerable to fire, while it was reported that forest fires could easily occur in over 245,000 hectares of Ketapang and 180,000 hectares of Kapuas Hulu.
West Kalimantan consists of 10 regencies and municipalities. In Riau, Indragiri Hilir regency tops the list with over 250,000 hectares vulnerable to forest fires, followed by Bengkalis, with over 80,000 hectares prone to forest fires, and Pelewawan, with 61,000 hectares susceptible.
Riau comprises nine regencies, one municipality and one administrative city. In North Sumatra, South Tapanuli ranked first with 57,000 hectares prone to forest fires.
Labuhan Batu regency followed South Tapanuli with 56,000 hectares vulnerable to forest fires, followed by Central Tapanuli with 21,000 hectares susceptible to fire. North Sumatra consists of 19 regencies, municipalities and administrative cities.
In Jambi, East Tanjung Jabung, with over 77,000 hectares, ranked the most susceptible, followed by Muaro Jambi and Batang Hari with 65,000 hectares and 26,000 hectares, respectively. Jambi has nine regencies and one municipality.