Wildfire in Indonesia

Wildfire in Indonesia is considered as one of the most serious issues that occur in this country. This accident happens almost every year and there are so many negative effects of this accident. Wildfire usually occurs in July to October each year. Below are several causes of wildfire in Indonesia.


There are several factors that might cause wildfire. Basically, wildfire in Indonesia can be caused by two main factors, natural factors and human factors. Below are quick look at several factors that commonly cause wildfire in Indonesia.

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a. Uncontrolled Land Burning

This is considered as one of the most common factors that cause wildfire in Indonesia. In Indonesia, clearing is done by communities and companies. People clear the land in order to turn the land into agricultural area or to build fishpond. Companies clear the land in order to use the land as plantation. Usually, clearing is done by burning the land in massive scale.

Most of the time, the burning became uncontrolled and the fire spread quickly to other areas. The fire became harder to be controlled since most of the time the clearing is done on peat lands.

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b. Misuse of Land

Land that is used for wrong purpose or land that is misused might also cause wildfire in the future. The land that is used for Hak Penguasaan Hutan (HPH) or Forest Concession is the common example of land that is misused. Once the company no longer used the land, they will burn the land and might trigger wildfire.

c. Conflicts Between Government and Companies

Land dispute cases in also considered as one of the factors that might trigger wildfire. The conflicts between government, companies, and communities due to land dispute status make palm oil companies decide to hire outsource workers to work and burn the land that is owned by local communities that want to be taken over by the company.

Land burning is also done to drive out the local communities from the area as well. Land burning will reduce the value of the land by making the land became degraded. Therefore, the company will be easier to take over the land by giving some cheap compensation to local communities. In some cases, local communities might also burn the land as protest to the process of taking over that is performed by the palm oil company.

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d. Low Income Levels

Other factor that might cause wildfire is low income levels. Local communities with low income levels might force the people to choose easier alternatives to clear the land. Burning the land is not only easier method for clearing but it’s also cheaper and faster as well. However, burning the land might cause wildfire when the fire is uncontrollable.

e. Lack of Law Enforcement

Lack of law enforcement is also considered as indirect factor of wildfire in Indonesia. The companies that break the rules of land clearing are rarely getting the punishment from law enforcement. This situation makes other companies became not hesitate in clearing the land by burning it.

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f. Lightning Strike

Wildfire in Indonesia is not only caused by human factors but also might be caused by natural factors as well. Lighting strike is considered as one of the most common natural factors that might cause wildfire in Indonesia. When the forest is dried due to long drought, the forest can be burned easily when there is lighting strike.

Besides lightning strike, other natural factor that might cause wildfire is volcanic activities. When the dried forest made contact with lava stream from volcano or hot cloud from volcano explosion, the forest can be burned easily.

See also: Table Manners in Indonesia – Why is Indonesia Important


Beside the causes, there are several effects of wildfire in Indonesia, as follows:

A. Health Impact

When the wildfire occurred in 2015, Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana or national Board for Disaster Management recorded that at least 500,000 people in Indonesia suffer from respiratory tract infection which is caused by the smoke that is created by the wildfire.

Just like emissions that are produced by vehicles, smoke that came from wildfire also contains dangerous chemicals such as micro sized dust that is very thick which can harm your respiratory tract and cause sore eyes but in more extreme level.

Some experts described the condition of people in Riau like someone who stand behind the exhaust of a truck and have to inhale the emissions from the vehicle while only wearing face mask. Long term effect of inhaling the smoke from wildfire is also very horrible as well.

According to the study that is conducted in 2013 about long term effect of smog in 1997 to 1998, 11,000 adults are died faster due to respiratory diseases that are caused by smog. The latest study from Harvard and Columbia even stated that smog in 2015 caused at least 100,000 premature deaths in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

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B. Economic Impact

Smog that is caused by wildfire not only brought health impact but also brought massive economic impact as well. According to the calculations that are conducted by World Bank, only in five months, Indonesia has lost about 221 trillion Rupiah or equivalent to Brunei’s Gross national Product in 2014.

C. Political Impact

For few years back, Indonesia is frequently criticized by neighbor countries such as Singapore and Malaysia due to the smog that is caused by wildfire that reach their territories. The citizen in those countries also protested Indonesia through social media.

The issue of wildfire also made Indonesia as the third largest country that produces carbon emission in the world, surpassing India. In 2015, the wildfire also contributed 75% of total carbon emission that is produced by Indonesia. This condition absolutely made other countries consider Indonesia as country that doesn’t have strong commitment in participating in the effort to prevent global warming.

See also: Indonesian National Human Rights  – Indonesian Women Rights

D. Ecological Impact

Ecological impact of wildfire might not be experienced by us directly. However, ecological impact of wildfire will be experienced directly by animals and plants that we should protect. In Indonesia, wildfire not only occurred on production forest but also spread to national parks such as Kerinci Seblat National Park, Tesso Nilo National Park, and Tanjung Putting National Park.

As the result, the wildfire in Indonesia has been threatened the conservation of various endangered species such as orangutan, elephant, tiger, and rhinoceros. Even though rehabilitation of these national parks can be done, the process will take very long time and it will not be able to restore the ecological values that possessed by nature completely.

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Parties That Are Involved in Wildfire

According to researches that are conducted by CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research), there are several parties that are involved in wildfire in Indonesia and get benefits from this accident. These parties are including:

  1. Companies

According to regulations that are applied in Indonesia, companies are not allowed to clear the land by burning it. Unfortunately, this regulation is often not followed by supervision to workers or subcontractor that performs land clearing. Companies are also commonly used third party in land clearing. This third party is communities who live near the areas that need to be cleared.

  1. Independent or Plasma Farmers

Method of land clearing by burning it has become habit for communities since it is more effective and efficient. People in communities also consider that land clearing by burning it will make land became more fertile.

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  1. Government

Government basically has four strategies to prevent and deal with wildfire. These strategies are air burnout by creating artificial rain using water bomb, land burnout, law enforcement against land burning, healthcare, and socialization. But in fact, government is not too strict in performing monitoring and prosecution against people who perform land burning even though the regulations are already very clear.

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Wildfire in Indonesia brings so many effects to the live of people in Indonesia and the live of people in other countries near Indonesia. Wildfire can be caused by many factors and one of them is the lack of law enforcement in penalizing people or companies that perform land burning.

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