Wildfire in Indonesia
are almost always caused by human. Only in very limited areas of East Kalimantan
are burning goal seams (mostly ignited by 1982-83 fires) as ignition sources. A
large percentage of all wildfires resulted from escaped agricultural burns which
are done to clear the land. Fire is the cheapest and the only available tool for
plantation companies to clear their land, to reduce vegetation cover and to
prepare and fertilize the extremely poor soil. And fires undoubtedly will
continue to be used for land clearing and soil enrichment by individuals and
companies in foreseeable future, even now the Government already prohibited fire
for land clearing.
Dayak people, an indigenous tribe in Kalimantan, traditionally for thousands
of years in tune with their natural environment, have been going shifting
cultivation or sometimes called slash and burn agriculture. They have
experiences and strict traditional rules of using fire to clear their
agriculture land. But huge number of settlers who came from other islands and
plantation companies do not apply such kind of rule in using fire for land
The extensive forest conversion policy is one of the substantial problems of
forest fires. The Government of Indonesia has a plan to convert 400.000 hectares
of forest a year to be agricultural plantations or timber plantations. The
Government have reserved total of 20 million hectares of natural forest to be
converted to plantation areas after commercial trees are cut. Sadly, the
Kalimantan soil is not suitable for palm oil plantations or timber plantations.
Apparently, it is only suitable for sustainable forest use. And forest
conversion program cannot be implemented without fires. Furthermore, if the land
use policy is not changed soon, the forest fire will be a recurring annual
event. Due to the current economic situation in Indonesia, it will be impossible
for the Government to change its policy toward the forest. With Indonesia is in
need of foreign exchange to pay its foreign debt, it is almost definite that
more forests will be converted to cash crop plantation such as palm oil
plantation, rubber plantation, and timber plantation.
fires have caused conflicts with neighboring nations. As mentioned before, the
practice of setting fires to clear lands have been illegal since 1994. Most
people breathing the air would like for this particular law to be enforced.
There has been many studies that have been done in Indonesia regarding the
fires. Johann Goldammer, Chief of the Fire Ecology Research Group at Germany's
Freiburg University started the only known study of Southeast Asian fires. He
suggests the Indonesia set up a land-management system that protects the forest
with proper satellite and radio communications to stop fires early, while
educating farmers in good, controlled burning practices. He even goes further to
suggest fire quotas for each farmer.
According to the umbrella law of forestry issued in 1967, all forest in
Indonesia owned by the Government, the Government has the right to convert, to
change the use, and to give its right to a private company. This means that the
Government did not recognize the traditional law or traditional right of
indigenous people on their forests.
Then the New Order Government gave forest
concession to some retired generals instead of to the local residents. This gave
them the right to log the forest and all the indigenous people was gotten rid of
their forests. Indigenous people have been prohibited to go inside the forest. Thus this created conflicts between the indigenous people and the concession
It is widely agreed that there needs to be policies made to address this
issue; however, the government has yet to step up.