Burning 'the cheapest way to clear farm land'

Burning 'the cheapest way to clear farm land'

RIAU - Why do people use fire to clear the land when tractors and earth movers can do the job? It is the cheapest way, came the reply from a plantation manager.

"It takes just 10 litres of diesel costing 50,000 rupiah (S$6.40) to flatten 1ha of land," Mr Fadli, who goes by just one name, told The Straits Times.

"In contrast, it would cost more than 15 million rupiah to hire workers and rent excavators to flatten and clear a plot of land that is of the same size," said Mr Fadli, a field manager at a rubber plantation in Pelintung, Riau.

And it would take men and machines one full day to finish the job, he added.

For poor farmers in Indonesia, it is hard economics and not green issues like environment protection that dictates what they do.

This is why they are likely to continue with a practice that has been used for generations, Mr Fadli said. "But we are not like that," he was quick to add.

He insisted his company does not use the slash-and-burn method, but was hard put to explain why there were burnt logs and branches in some parts of the plantation. Also, a worker was using an excavator to flatten land that had obviously been burned.

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