The illegal clearing of forests by burning is a recurrent problem in Indonesia, particularly during the annual dry season that stretches from around June to September. This year, the haze came from forest and peat land fires in Bengkalis and Rokan Hilir Regencies.
The Bengkalis Disaster Mitigation Agency has said nearly 600 hectares of oil palm plantation and rubber plantation areas in three areas (Sepahat, Tanjung Leban, Bukit Kerikil) are currently burning. Firefighters from a number of plantation companies, including local residents, are making efforts to extinguish the fires. However, they are facing difficulties in controlling it because of water shortages and strong winds.
At least 138 hot spots are currently being monitored in Jambi, Riau, and South Sumatra – that is significantly up compared to less than 100 spots the week before.
However, an Indonesian official said Singapore and Malaysia share some of blame for the haze that has raised air pollution to “unhealthy” levels. The accusation was levelled at Singapore and Malaysian palm oil companies which he said also use the “slash and burn” method of clearing land.
Hadi Daryanto, who is the secretary-general of Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry, has been quoted in a newspaper as saying that the “slash and burn” technique being used is the cheapest land clearing method but it is not only used by local farmers.
He said that employees of palm oil investors, including those from Singapore and Malaysian companies, also use this method. Thus, he is asking also the Singapore and Malaysian companies to pay more attention to what is being done on the ground – their farmers using this illegal “slash and burn” technique.