Firms light forest fires

Firms light forest fires

1 September 2006

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Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia —  Data collected by an environmental group here shows that 98 of the 2,047 hot spots on the island of Sumatra were detected in concession areas of private plantation companies in Ogan Komering Ilir, Banyuasin, Musi Rawas and Musi Banyuasin regencies.

“A significant number of the hot spots have been located in private plantations,” Muhammad Saleh from the South Sumatra Forest Fire Management Project (SSFFMP) told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

However, he said law enforcers had not taken stern actions against the oil palm plantations, while several traditional farmers suspected of setting fire to forested areas had been detained.

“Don’t slap stiff sanctions only on farmers, but also on plantation companies which have evidently set fire to farmland,” said chairman of the South Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), Sri Lestari.

The number of hot spots in the province has declined in the past week, but Saleh is not sure whether this is due to increased public awareness or the rain.

“The declining number of hot spots is not a sure indication of a trend because the dry season lasts until September,” said Saleh.

An official from the South Sumatra Agricultural Office, Dodi Supriadi, said that fires in peatland usually died down on the surface but had the potential of reigniting due to wind or lighted cigarette butts.


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