Indonesia’s Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya says her ministry’s team has found some 370 to 500 “hotspots” of forest fires in the West Papuan province of Papua earlier this year.
“It is a matter of worry since there was no hotspot in Papua last year, and this year the number is already around 370 to 500,” Nurbaya said.
The fires were not being caused by any act of corporations but resulting due to the indigenous people’s lifestyle habits, she said.
Her ministry and the newly set up Peatland Restoration Agency (BGR) continue to coordinate to curb forest fires in Papua, which is one of seven Indonesian provinces being closely monitored.
The ministry sent a team to Papua in January and found local people burning old grass in order to prepare the ground to grow fresh grass for cattle.
Besides, fires were also lit up on purpose along the banks of rivers and lakes to catch fish.
The central and local governments need to inform the communities regarding certain traditional slash and burn methods that are allowed, the minister said.
“It should be firmly ensured that there must be no fire in peatland area, and that it is allowed in other areas with clear restrictions,” she said.
She said use of fire in hunting must be avoided because it could spark a bigger fire.