Belated stories on people suffering wildfires, haze

EoF News / 05 September 2013

EoF News (PEKANBARU) - As the man-made catastrophe of forest fire and haze returns to Riau, citizens of Pelalawan have to leave their homes and be on the alert to prevent fire coming to their remaining land, while some students fainted as schools closed in the district and the province’s capital city.

Some already lost their homes and to make it worse, many also already had lost hectares of land due to forest and land fires. Locals told media that the fire was first seen in the concessions of acacia and palm oil plantations.

Samsur (51) citizen of Kuala Panduk village, Teluk Meranti sub-district, Pelalawan, has been leaving his home for two weeks in order to secure his neighbor’s land from the fire to spread larger and wipe his land which is right next to his neigbor’s rubber plantation and his house which is just 3 km away.

“It has been two weeks and the fire is still in while we only have this (machete) to cut down the peat which is still burning then water it in order to stop fire crossing to our land. If fire reaches the across, then we’ll be finished,” said Samsur as quoted on, 2 Sep, 2013.

However, Samsur is still more fortunate than Tukimin (55) whose land of 3 hectares was already wiped by fire and only 2 hectares left. Tukimin told media that he suffered hundred millions loss for the palm oil is already six years old and going to be harvested.

In addition, locals told media that fire source was first seen in block E19 of PT Mekar Alam Lestari (MAL)’s palm oil concession. PT MAL is one of PT Duta Palma’s subsidiaries.

The low rain intensity eases fire to spead out. Mongabay’s field investigation on Saturday (31 Aug) also told that there were at least 6 hotspots along Bunut-Bono road. Among the biggest are located in the area of PT Arara Abadi in Balam Merah village, the fire has been roaring since the last few days. PT Arara Abadi is giant paper APP’s main timber supplier.

In Pelalawan District, which detected most hotspots in the last week of August 2013, several of students fainted due to thick haze they inhaled, reports said.

“We heard reports saying some students fainted and got ashtma who were taken to hospital,” said Head of Education Service of Pelalawan M.D. Rizal as quoted by Antara (29 Aug).

Deputy of Riau, Mambang Mit, visited the hot spot and monitored locals’ condition on last Friday (30 Aug) and promised that local goverment would send help as soon as possible, “The burning areas already reaches locals’ residents. We hope that the disaster could be mitigated as soon as possible so no more damages suffered by the people,” said Mambang Mit as quoted as saying on Detik News (30 Aug).

Meanwhile, in Pekanbaru, thick haze covers the area for days since Tuesday, August 27 2013 that schools were closed last week. Rain in the last couple days has helped to attenuate the haze, however, the air condition is still unclean for Pekanbaru citizens.

“You can smell the haze some time in the days, the laundry always smells hazy at the end of the day,” a Pekanbaru resident shared her complaint to EoF.

In June and August, during land and forest fires, scores of Sumatran wild elephants moved from their forest in Tesso Nilo complex due to the area raged by fires and blanketed by thick haze, environmentalists said.

Two people found dead in June in Riau province due to forest and land fires and no progress on development of law enforcement.