Kharishar Kahfi, Jakarta – Investigators with the Environment and Forestry Ministry named an individual, identified only as 46-year-old UB, a suspect for allegedly starting a wildfire on 274 hectares of land in Kubu Raya regency, West Kalimantan.
According to a statement issued on Saturday, the case was opened when the intelligence team of the Kalimantan Environment and Forestry Law Enforcement Center's Quick Response Forest Rangers Unit (SPORC) was monitoring hotspots in Mount Loncek hamlet in the regency's Teluk Bakung village. The monitoring was done using a National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (Lapan) satellite.
Between July 18 and 21, the team went to the hamlet to verify data found during the monitoring process. It found that three plots of land covering 274 ha had been burned.
The team later found that UB allegedly used slash-and-burn techniques to clear the land with gas and an old rubber inner tube. Investigators arrested him and seized a gas lighter, a rubber tube and a machete.
The SPORC charged the suspect for allegedly violating the 2009 Environment Law, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment and Rp 10 billion (US$706,635) in fines.
According to the Environment and Forestry Ministry, wildfires burned 42,740 ha of land across the country between January and May – nearly twice the area burned in the corresponding period last year, which was 23,745 ha. The fires destroyed 2,274 ha of land in West Kalimantan, comprising 1,233 ha of peatland and 1,041 ha of mineral land.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry's law enforcement director general, Rasio Ridho Sani, said his office had dispatched teams across the country to arrest those suspected to have started forest or land fires.
"We have warned owners of concession areas in which we found hotspots to make sure that [fires] do not engulf their lands. Should they fail to do this, we will not hesitate to prosecute them by [...] ordering them to pay compensation or sending the responsible parties to jail," Rasio said.