MIRI: All it takes is five days without rain and a forest fire will be sparked off in Kuala Baram, Miri, making it the most vulnerable fire hotspot in the state.
So far this year, more than 1,700ha in the district had been ravaged by fires and the danger of more fires is always looming.
Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) controller Peter Sawal said forest and peat fires followed by haze, had resulted in dire consequences.
He said the woes caused by fires and haze affected not just the population of Miri but also the entire Sarawak.
“We have in place all sorts of laws and regulations as well as enforcement efforts. We even built a watchtower to help prevent open burning in Kuala Baram.
“However, all these measures failed to stop forest fires,” Sawal said, adding that fires were either due to negligence or triggered by hot weather.
“Every year, Miri is hit by haze and smog from fires in Kuala Baram. These are hazardous to people’s health, especially those with breathing ailments,” sai Sawal.
According to him, the haze situation also affects tourism.
“The image of Sarawak is affected when we contribute to the transboundary haze.
“In Kuala Baram, fires and land development are responsible for lowering water level in soil, resulting in dried peat soil and underground fires.
“Every year, we spend a lot of money and manpower just to tackle fires and haze problems.
“We need strong cooperation among all agencies including the Fire Department, the army and landowners to put a stop to this annual fire woes,” he said.
NREB has inked a deal with four major land developers in Kuala Baram to implement a compulsory standard operating procedure (SOP) on fire prevention and suppression.
Sawal signed the SOP with the top management of Shin Yang Forestry Sdn Bhd, Naim Holdings, Pantai Bayu Indah Sdn Bhd and Woodman Sdn Bhd.
Witnessing the signing was State Second Minister for Environment and Resource Planning Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.
The SOP entails measures to be taken by landowners to prevent and surpress fires on their land.
Awang Tengah said the SOP would be imposed on all other landowners in Sarawak.