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Jakarta Post

Companies blamed for hectares of peatland fires in Jambi

  • Jon Afrizal and Rizal Harahap

    The Jakarta Post

Jambi/Pekanbaru   /   Fri, August 21, 2015   /  08:35 am

It is believed that oil palm plantations and industrial forest companies have played roles in the spreading of fires currently burning hundreds of hectares of peatland in West and East Tanjungjabung regencies, Jambi province.

'€œFire mitigation is urgent. The government, as the license issuer, should have asked the companies to be responsible for keeping their respective areas free of fire,'€ the assistant coordinator of the Indonesian Conservation Community (KKI) Warsi, Kurniawan, said on Thursday.

Kurniawan blamed the fires on the canalization and drainage system developed by plantation and industrial forest companies on peatland. He said the canals dried out the surface of the peatland, making it easier for fires to start.

He also said that under the prevailing policy, authorities could monitor the minimum water level of 40 centimeters on peatland as required by Government Regulation No. 71/2014.

The government, according to Kurniawan, could also demand that canals have gates that can be opened and closed. That way, during the dry season the canal gates could be closed to help slow down the decrease in the water level on peatland.

He said that although managing peatland for industrial and economic purposes was allowed, there were tight rules on how to exploit peatland and how to build canals on it as stipulated in Agriculture Ministerial Decree No. 14/2009 on peatland utilization.

'€œIn practice, many of the canals were not built according to the regulation. Enforcement is also not effectively conducted,'€ Kurniawan said.

Jambi was initially recorded as having 670,413 hectares of peatland. Of the area, 86,442 hectares have been converted into industrial forests and 136,396 more are managed by large-scale oil palm plantation companies.

KKI Warsi, however, noted that of the peatland issued concession licenses, 29,701 hectares had a depth of more than 4 meters, meaning that they should have been categorized as conservation areas.

Meanwhile in Riau, hot spots were reported to have been emerging in nine regions, namely Indragiri Hulu, Pelalawan, Indragiri Hilir, Kuantan Singingi, Kampar, Rokan Ulu, Bengkalis, Meranti Islands and Siak.

'€œOf the hot spots, 58 have been identified as fire spots with a reliability level of over 70 percent, indicating forest and land fires,'€ said the head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency'€™s (BMKG) Pekanbaru office, Sugarin.

He said the most fire spots, or 29, had been detected in Indragiri Hilir, followed by Pelalawan with 15.

Sugarin said an increase in the number of hot spots was also detected in other regions across Sumatra Island, where a total of 720 hot spots were detected on Thursday morning.

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