Indonesia admits forest fires are man-made


ENVIRONMENT Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja yesterday acknowledged that the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan were more the result of forestry and plantation firms clearing land by burning than the El Nino weather phenomenon.

He said satellite pictures obtained by the Environment Impact and Management Agency (Bapedal) since March proved that the fires were man-made.

“It is clear that the fires were man-made even if I often mention the El Nino as a factor,” he told The Straits Times yesterday. “Our satellite pictures prove this fact.”

But he stressed that El Nino had worsened the situation by causing natural fires to break out in peat fields and coastal swamps.

“The fires were started by man and El Nino just made matters worse,” he said.

Adding that the fires were now under control and that the number of hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan had reduced considerably over the last week, the minister noted that international assistance from countries such as Singapore had helped a lot in fighting the fires.

“We are very grateful to Singapore in particular for helping us,” he said.

“They know exactly what to do for a neighbour experiencing hard times.”

Singapore has been helping in Indonesia’s firefighting efforts by providing computers, geographical-positioning systems and a Singapore Armed Forces C-130 aircraft and crew.

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