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Jakarta Post

Plantation neighbors in constantly recurring fear of peatland fires

  • Rizal Harahap

    The Jakarta Post

Bengkalis, Riau   /   Wed, September 7 2016   /  09:07 am

Yadi, 60, of Sidodadi, Bengkalis regency, Riau, has for the last three years been gripped with worry because every time the dry season starts the vast peatland near his place always catches on fire.

For the last three days, for instance, dozens of hectares of peatland in his village have caught fire, thanks to a reckless oil palm plantation worker who cleared the land by burning it.

“I am worried that my place will also catch on fire, but I have no other choice except surviving here. I don’t know what work to do if I move from here,” said the grandfather of five who hails from North Sumatra and earns a living as a plantation keeper.

He said the area easily caught on fire because the water that kept the peatland wet had been drained by a big canal called the Gotek 010, which passed through the Giam Siak Kecil Nature Preserve and ended in a natural lake.