TEMPO.CO, Palembang - Some 20 hectares of peatland in Parit Village, Ogan Ilir District, South Sumatra, was burned on Monday night. The Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) South Sumatra acting director Iriansyah alleged that the peatland was intentionally set on fire.
“Ogan Ilir Police are still investigating it,” Iriansyah told Tempo in a phone interview yesterday.
Iriansyah explained that the fire started at 7 pm local time. The BPBD South Sumatra deployed two fire trucks. “Unfortunately, the hose could not reach the scene,” he said.
The fire was only put out when Banyuasin Forestry Office and BPBD Ogan Ilir, assisted by military personnel, the police and village task force collaborate. Two water-bombing helicopters were flown on Tuesday morning.
On a separate occasion, Peatland Restoration Team (TRG) South Sumatra coordinator Dr. Najib Asmani said that the fire in Parit Village is an alarm bell that the government and the people who are concerned about the environment to be ready and vigilant.
According to Najib, since 2016, his team has been trying to minimize the fire from spreading like in 2015. “TRG has issued the canal blocking program so that peatland remains moist when the dry season comes,” he said.
Najib added that peatland dries out quickly during the dry season because there are too many canals made by companies and some people. “Canals can dry out [peatland] which may pose fire risk,” he said.
South Sumatra is home to 1,254,502.34 hectares of peatland and around 738,137.84 hectares have been turned into industrial forest plantations (HTI) and oil palm plantations, according to Najib.