Sat, 15 Oct 1994

Forest fires

I have followed the discussion on forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan with great interest. I would like to point to a situation here on Java, where so few tracks of nature are left. Baluran National Park in East Java used to be a very good area. However, visiting the park several times over the last year it struck me that the management of it is far below standard.

Each September forest fires are lit by the local population to facilitate digging up tubers. The fire is supposed to clear the grass, but many trees are also lost in the process. Hence, the slopes of Gunung Baluran are progressively denuded.

When I last visited it a few weeks ago the whole mountain was alight. When fires died out, they were immediately lit again. According to park rangers the fires get worse each year, as can be expected with less forest and more scrub resulting from the previous year's fire.

Park management is doing nothing to solve the problem. The fires could easily be prevented by patrolling the area, and if a fire is started it could quickly be extinguished. However, conservation of nature has no priority in this once beautiful park. Management seems only interested in constructing buildings. Pondoks (cottages) are built on one side of the access road as the forest burns close on the other side! If this trend continues a few more years, Baluran will be a wasteland and will have lost all value as a national park. That would be a great loss for Java.