The government believes that it is cheaper to prevent blazes than to fight them, and to this end, it is planning for more ‘fire-free villages.’ Instead of fighting fires, the Indonesian government said it hoped to channel more efforts upstream to prevent them, as it announced a three-year national programme to combat haze and rehabilitate destroyed peatland.
The Indonesian paper and pulp giant APRIL has been a blue wave leader in the development of the Free Fire Villages (FFV) now copied by the government continuing battling raging fires in areas such as Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) in South Sumatra.
The efforts will start at the village level, to create more “fire-free villages” or “Desa Bebas Api” in Bahasa Indonesia. The central and local authorities will work with the private sector to get local communities more involved in preventing fires. For instance, small-scale farmers who still clear their land using slash-and-burn methods will be taught land-clearing techniques such as composting or burning land waste in covered drums instead.
While such program are already available,they are run by plantation firms and are small-scale, involving only a few villages.The new national programme, targeted to run from next year to 2019, will involve 731 villages and 66 cities or districts across seven provinces, said National Development Planning Minister Bambang BRODJONGORO on Thursday.
“Land and forest fires have been happening year after year and are made worse by the degradation and destruction of peatland. Managing this has become a national priority,” he added. The Indonesian government aims to provide more economic incentives, beef up the role of village communities and social institutions, boost law enforcement, streamline forestry permit laws and improve an “early fire response”, he said during a keynote speech at the International Peatland Symposium.
Last year’s regional haze crisis, which affected millions of people in South-east Asia, cost Indonesia around 221 trillion rupiah (S$23.8 billion) in losses, Mr Bambang said. His announcement came after the government issued a blanket ban last Wednesday on the cultivation of carbon-rich peatland, a move lauded by international environmental groups as a major boost to global efforts in tackling climate change.
Peatland forms when dense layers of wet plant material compact into dense carbon stores over thousands of years. Carbon is released into the environment when these swamps are drained or cleared by fire for commercial plantations – such as for palm oil or pulp wood.