Hundreds of hotspots detected in plantations in West Kalimantan, as Indonesian forest fires rage again

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Hundreds of fire ‘hotspots’ have been detected inside corporate-run plantations in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, as land fires cast a pall of smoke across the island once again, according to the NGO Walhi.

The annual debate over blame for the cause of the fires has re-emerged with the smoke in recent weeks, following relatively mild years in 2016 and 2017. The haze of 2015, which had huge environmental, health and economic impacts, prompted President Joko Widodo to announce a raft of measures aimed at preventing fires in carbon-rich peatlands.

Walhi has detected 765 hotspots in plantation boundaries so far this year, according a report in Mongabay.

Walhi executive director Nur Hidayati told Mongabay that the government is blaming smallholders for this year’s fires because its own firefighting efforts so far have been focused on areas close to these villages.

“But [fires on] companies’ concessions that are far from villages are being ignored,” she said.

Walhi has also called on the authorities to take action against companies with fires on their concessions, ahead of pursuing local farmers. This month Ministry of Environment and Forestry sealed off concessions held by five companies in Kubu Raya district, West Kalimantan. It did not identify the companies by name.

Image on homepage shows firefighters in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Image by Junaidi Hanafiah/Mongabay Indonesia