Over the past month, media locally, regionally and globally have been covering the wild fire situation on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. As reported by The New York Times, the smoke from Sumatran fires is casting a smoky haze over many of our neighboring countries. The fires threaten local communities, businesses, homes, and local populations of endangered orangutans.
Forest fires in this part of the world are somewhat common, especially in warm, dry summer months. Some of these fires start as small, intentional burning meant to clear sections of land for agriculture. Land preparation through burning is a long-time practice for many communities in Indonesia. As reported by the Jakarta Globe, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya warned that the number of fires could increase as the dry season continued. Dry conditions and strong winds can push the fires out of control, and lead to unintended destruction of peatland and habitats for thousands of species, like the endangered Sumatran tigers and orangutans.
In Indonesia, citizens, communities and companies like APP help take on the responsibility to voluntarily combat forest fires in an effort to protect the land and prevent global warming, with guidance from the government. We are an avid supporter of these programs, and encourage our pulpwood suppliers to initiate and participate in Community Fire Guard (CFG) organizations across Indonesia.
The purpose of the CFGs is to educate communities on the dangers of forest fires, help prevent fires and combat existing fires. APP recruits company employees and members of neighboring communities, and equips them with the knowledge and tools necessary to fight wild fires. Together, these CFG groups keep communities and habitats safe.
But despite our best efforts fires still happen, leaving degraded forests in their wake. Fortunately, we at APP have a process in place that allows us to help re-establish forests that have been previously cleared due to fire. We turn degraded peatland, or land that had been stripped of forest, into pulpwood plantations full of fast-growing trees that mature in as little as six years. The land becomes fruitful again as a source for sustainable pulpwood.
APP will continue to battle forest fires in Indonesia with the help of our colleagues and neighbors. As the smoke clears from the skies, we will work together with our communities to rebuild and renew.