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Underlying Causes and Impacts of Fires in Indonesia

 

     

Background

Large-scale fires and associated smoke are an increasing problem for Indonesia and surrounding countries, as evidenced by large-scale burning in 1982/1983, 1987, 1991, 1994, and 1997/1998.  These fires devastated large areas of forest and caused significant economic losses, both in Indonesia where most fires occurred, and in neighboring countries.

The major causes were, however, unclear. Many blamed small-scale farmers and large-scale estates, suggesting that these actors deliberately set fire to forests to open up land for agriculture or plantations. In 1994, the Indonesian government pointed the finger at slash-and-burn activities by smallholders, estimating that these people accounted for more than 85 percent of the five million ha burned. Environmental NGOs, however, blamed activities by forest concessionaires and plantation owners as the major causes of fires in the same year.  With data available from fire hot-spot information and satellite imagery, all institutions, including government agencies, infer that large-scale land clearing for plantations of fast-growing trees for pulpwood and oil palm were the major causes in 1997 and 1998. Yet, fires occurred at multiple scales and for many reasons, and the impacts on local communities and forests had various, complex causes.

Between 1999 and 2002, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and the United States Forest Service (USFS) undertook a multi-disciplinary study looking at the underlying causes and impacts of fires in Indonesia.  In order to assess the relative roles of the different factors shaping fire-prone and fire-resistant landscapes, eight study sites with different historical land use patterns were chosen across Sumatra and Kalimantan. Various common land-use situations were studied, including large-scale plantations, transmigration projects, small-holder plantations, logging activities in natural forests, and agriculture. The sites also included some areas with peat soils, the burning of which contributed substantially to smoke and haze during the 1997/98 fires. 

The sites formed the basis for understanding the extent to which land use policies and practices from the village level through to the central government contributed to causing fires. Combining spatial analysis with social science research provided answers. Satellite imagery along with field investigations provided information on the location, extent, and the type of land cover burned.  However, extensive interviews with local people combined with on-the-ground participatory mapping was the only way to find out who was responsible for the fires and the underlying reasons for burning.

This study helps to fill a void of site-specific evidence on the diverse underlying causes of the Indonesian fires, despite an emerging consensus on macro-level causes and impacts, and policy debates on preventing future fire disasters. The most important findings include confirmation of multiple direct and underlying causes at each of the eight locations; no single dominant cause at any site; and wide differences in causes among sites. Conclusions emphasise the importance of location-specific studies within a regional, analytical context.

Study team

  • Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) – Grahame Applegate, Rona Dennis, Yayat Ruchiat, Iwan Kurniawan, Andi Erman, Judith Mayer, Carol Colfer, Ann Casson, Unna Chokkalingam
  • World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) – Suyanto, Tom Tomich, Fred Stolle
  • USDA Forest Service (USFS) - Paul Maus, Henry Lawkowski

Funding sources
US International Agency for Development (USAID)
USDA Forest Service Office of International Programs
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

 

 

     

Publications

     

a. Final report, paper, information briefs

     
Dennis, R.A.; Mayer, J.; Applegate, G.; Chokkalingam, U.; Colfer, C.J.P.; Kurniawan, I.; Lachowski, H.; Maus, P.; Permana, R.P.; Ruchiat, Y.; Stolle, F.; Suyanto; Tomich, T.P. 2005. Fire, people and pixels: linking social science and remote sensing to understand underlying causes and impacts of fires in Indonesia. Human Ecology 33(4): 465-504.
abstract : English
 
     
Lachowski H, Maus P, Man G, Dull C, Applegate G and Suyanto S. 2002. International Programs Global Leaflet: Behind Indonesia's El Niño fires. USDA Forest Service.
URL : http://www.fs.fed.us/global/news/oldnewsletters/apr_02/
article4_12_01.htm
 
     
Applegate G, Suyanto, TP Tomich, R Dennis, F Stolle, Y Ruchiat, I Kurniawan, A Erman, J Mayer, C Colfer, A Casson, G Man, H Lachowski and P Maus, 2002. Fires in Indonesia. An assessment of the causes. Summary of research findings 1997-1998 fires. Policybrief. CIFOR, ICRAF, USDA, USAID, EAPEI. 15p.
Language : English
 
       
Applegate G, Chokkalingan U and Suyanto S. 2001. The underlying causes and impacts of fires in Southeast Asia final report. Bogor, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme, USAID, USDA Forest Service. 70 p.
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 2.9 MB)
 

     

b. Project site reports

       
Suyanto S, Dennis R, Kurniawan I, Maus P and Applegate G. 2000. The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-east Asia : site 1. Sekincau, Lampung Province, Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme, USAID, USDA Forest Service. 36 p. PDF
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 828 KB)
 
       
Suyanto S, Dennis R, Ruchiat Y, Kurniawan I, Stolle F, Maus P and Applegate G. 2000. The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-east Asia : site 2. Menggala, Lampung Province, Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme, USAID, USDA Forest Service. 36 p. PDF
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 1.5 MB)
 
       
Suyanto S, Ruchiat Y, Stolle F and Applegate G. 2000. The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-east Asia : site 3. Tanah Tumbuh, Jambi Province, Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia. International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme. 27 p. PDF
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 1.3 MB)
 
       
Dennis R, Permana RP, Suyanto S, Kurniawan I, Maus P, Stolle F, Applegate G and Ruchiat Y. 2000. The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-east Asia : site 4. Musi Banyu Asin, South Sumatra Province, Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme, USAID, USDA Forest Service. 43 p.
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 1.3 MB)
 
       
Dennis R, Erman A and Applegate G. 2000. The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-east Asia : site 5. Danau Sentarum, West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme, USAID, USDA Forest Service. 71 p
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 3.2 MB)
 
       
Mayer J and Suratmoko B. 2000. The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-east Asia : site 6. Sanggau, West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme, USAID, USDA Forest Service. 36 p
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 1.8 MB)
 
       
Suyanto S, Ruchiat Y, Erman A, Maus P, Stolle F, Hadi DP, Dennis R and Applegate G. 2000. The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-east Asia : site 7. Tumbang Titi, West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme, USAID, USDA Forest Service. 37 p. PDF
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 2.0 MB)
 
       
Colfer, C., Dennis, R.A., and Applegate, G. 2000. The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-east Asia : site 8. Long Segar, East Kalimantan Province, Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme, USAID, USDA Forest Service. 83p.
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 2.3 MB)
 

     

c. Socio-economic reports

       
Mayer, J., Suratmoko, B. 2000. Fire and landscape in Sanggau, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Bogor, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, SEA Regional Research Programme, USAID, USDA Forest Service. 111 p.
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 2.7 MB)
 
     
Suyanto, S., Ruchiat, Y. 2000. Impacts of human activities and land tenure conflict on fires and land use change: cases study of Menggala-Lampung-Sumatra. Bogor, Indonesia.
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 1.9 MB)
 
     
Suyanto, S. Fire, deforestation and land tenure in the North-Eastern Fringes of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Lampung. Bogor, Indonesia. 24 p.
e-files PDF Complete file : English (size 536 KB)
 

     

d. Posters

     
Studi Kasus 1. Sekincau
JPEG file : Indonesian (Size 572 KB)
 
     
Studi Kasus 2a. Menggala
JPEG file : Indonesian (Size 592 KB)
 
     
Studi Kasus 2b. Menggala
JPEG file : Indonesian (Size 596 KB)
 
     
Studi Kasus 3. Tanah Tumbuh
JPEG file : Indonesian (Size 604 KB)
 
     
Studi Kasus 4. Musi Banyu Asin
JPEG file : Indonesian (Size 652 KB)
 
     
Studi Kasus 5. Danau Sentarum
JPEG file : Indonesian (Size 580 KB)
 
     
Studi Kasus 6. Sanggau
JPEG file : Indonesian (Size 484 KB)
 
     
Studi Kasus 7. Tumbang Titi
JPEG file : Indonesian (Size 476 KB)
 
     
Studi Kasus 8. Long Segar
JPEG file : Indonesian (Size 556 KB)
 
     
Case Study 1. Sekincau
JPEG file : English (Size 508 KB)
 
     
Case Study 2a. Menggala
JPEG file : English (Size 556 KB)
 
     
Case Study 2b. Menggala
JPEG file : English (Size 568 KB)
 
     
Case Study 3. Tanah Tumbuh
JPEG file : English (Size 580 KB)
 
     
Case Study 4. Musi Banyu Asin
JPEG file : English (Size 604 KB)
 
     
Case Study 5. Danau Sentarum
JPEG file : English (Size 552 KB)
 
     
Case Study 6. Sanggau
JPEG file : English (Size 456 KB)
 
     
Case Study 7. Tumbang Titi
JPEG file : English (Size 460 KB)
 
     
Case Study 8. Long Segar
JPEG file : English (Size 528 KB)
 

     

e. Other publications.

     
Colfer, C.J.P. 2003. Sepuluh usulan untuk menjelaskan kebakaran di Kalimantan. In: Colfer, C.J.P., Resosudarmo, I.A.P. (eds.). Ke mana harus melangkah?: masyarakat hutan, dan perumusan kebijakan di Indonesia. Jakarta, Indonesia, Yayasan Obor Indonesia. 378-396.
Language : Indonesian
 
     
Suyanto, S.; Applegate, G.; Tacconi, L. 2002. Community-based fire management, land tenure and conflict: insights from Sumatra, Indonesia. In: Peter Moore, David Ganz, Lay Cheng Tan, Thomas Enters and Patrick B. Durst (eds.). Communities in flames: proceedings of an international conference on community involvement in fire management. Bangkok, Thailand, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific No. RAP Publication 2002/25. 27-32. 
URL : http://www.iucn.org/themes/fcp/publications/files/
ff_communities_in_flames.pdf
 
     
Colfer, C.J.P. 2002. Ten propositions to explain Kalimantan's fires. In: Colfer, C.J.P., Resosudarmo, I.A.P. (eds.). Which way forward?: people, forests, and policymaking in Indonesia. Washington, DC, Resources for the Future, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS). 309-324.
abstract : English
 
     
Colfer, C.J.P. 2001. Fire in East Kalimantan: a panoply of practices, views and (discouraging) effects. Borneo Research Bulletin 32: 32-56.
abstract : English
 


Last updated: Wednesday, June 07, 2006