Indonesia: Peatland fires rage across dozens of hectares in Riau

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 14 Oct 16;

Dozens of hectares of peatland in the Rangsang Timur district of Meranti Islands regency, Riau, are on fire despite the recent onset of the rainy season.

Meranti Islands Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) head Edy Afrizal said the fires had been raging for four days and did not only burn the bushes but also damaged rubber and coconut plantations belonging to local farmers. “We estimate the burned area is about 50 hectares,” he said Friday.

Edy could not confirm the cause of the disaster but said the police had begun an investigation.

“This repeated fire on peatland is very unfortunate, because we have dispersed enough information that everyone here knows setting fire to land is a crime punishable by jail,” he said.

He added that a joint team of personnel from his office, the Indonesian Military and the National Police as well as locals was trying to extinguish the fires, but they were facing difficulties due to the lack of water and a strong wind blowing from the west, helping the fire spread.

“Haze is emitting from the burning land,” he said. (evi)

Island focus: Dozens of hectares of peatland burned
The Jakarta Post 15 Oct 16;

The rainy season has arrived but land and forest fires continue in Riau, destroying hundreds of hectares of land and forests across the resource-rich province.

On Friday, dozens of hectares of peatland in Telesung and Tanjung Kedabu villages, Rangsang Timur district, Meranti Islands regency, were razed by fire.

Meranti Islands Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edy Afrizal said the fires, which burned for four days, not only affected vegetation but also ravaged rubber and coconut plantations.

“The area burned by the fire is estimated to reach 50 hectares,” he said.

Local police are investigating what caused the incident and a joint team from the BPBD, Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police is working to localize the fires.

“It was hard to contain the fires because there was no source of water,” Edy added.

In 2014, fires burned hundreds of hectares of sago plantations belonging to private companies and local people, reportedly causing haze in Riau.

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