Pulpwood companies contribute to hazy Riau

EoF News / 15 July 2009

PEKANBARU (EoF News)-- Firefighters desperately struggled to extinguish forest and land fires in Riau Province as residents suffered upper respiratory problems due to worsening quality of air, while airport administrators delayed flights, media reports said.

Based on quick analysis by Eyes on the Forest referring to Modiss satellite, it is found that most of fire hotspots during 1-15 July 2009 occurred in concessions of PT Rimba Rokan Perkasa (APP/SMG associated company), PT Surya Dumai Agrindo (APP/SMG), PT Mega Pusaka Lestari (APRIL) and palm oil company PT Budi Daksa Dwikusuma.

At least four flights delayed this morning (15 July 2009) in Pekanbaru’s airport Sultan Syarif Qasim due to the visibility is at only 700 meters as the city and other parts in the province were blanketed by thick haze from forest and land fires.

*Crash Image*

Last week, haze forced Dumai’s Pinang Kampai airport was closed for some hours, Riau Terkini reported (10/7/2009).

Media Indonesia daily reported Wednesday that joint forest firefighters were hampered by fires that occurred in deep peat swamp of 8 meters. “The team only copes with flames from top of peatlands,” said Syaid Nurjaya, head of forest fire control of Riau Forestry Service. He added that the flame under the surface of peat cannot be extinguished.

Forest and land fires this year broke out first in January which can be stopped by heavy rains then and since May the province raged by fires and choked by haze.

Syaid Nurjaya said at least 6,000 hectares of forest and land that raged by fires where three areas, Rokan Hilir district, Dumai city and Bengkalis district were most severely hit by fires.

Even the province’s capitol city, Pekanbaru, also contributed much to the hotspots as landowners set fires to clear land for construction. He said that 600 of 800 hectares of land near main road Jalan Sudirman was raged by fires which believed it was deliberately set. There is no any legal action taken against the landowner, media reports said.

Meanwhile, spokesperson of Riau Police, Zulkifli, said that his organization would probe forest and land fires by deploying teams finding out the perpetrators, Riau Terkini website reported Wednesday (15/7/2009).

Eyes on the Forest learned that there is no law enforcement upheld concerning to crime of forest fires in the province, particularly involving large-scale landholders and landowners.

Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) of Pekanbaru office said Tuesday (14/7/2009) that forest fire hotpspots in Sumatra were 228 where 140 occurred in Riau, Riau Terkini reported.

BMKG analyst, Johannes Drajat Bintoro, said that forest fires and haze would worsen in the near future as potential to rain across southern and northern Sumatera is diminished. He said that the downwind heading to Riau province therefore the thick haze easily found the province which some of them coming from neighboring provinces.

Transboundary haze might reach Malaysia and Singapore, Detik.com reported quoting BMKG analysis (15/7/2009).