Burnt grass vexes Kampung Pandan community

National 2 minutes, 33 seconds


BURNT grass along large stretches of road in Kampung Pandan has left residents and grassroots leaders puzzled over the seemingly reckless motive behind the fires.

The affected areas were spotted earlier this week at different locations at the Pandan A, B and C national housing schemes after long grass on road shoulders was cut and piled into heaps.

Belait’s Fire and Rescue Department ruled out natural combustion, saying the soil along the roadside wasn’t peat – traditionally known to cause forest fires in the district.

Instead, Muhd Shareeni Hj Mohd Yussof, the Fire and Rescue Commanding Officer of Belait District Branch B, said the culprit was human action, most likely by cigarette butts thrown carelessly into the piles of cut and dried grass, or intentionally set on fire by “irresponsible” parties seeking to clear the piles.

Although the burnt stretches along the roadside have yet to creep into the private compounds of houses, the commanding officer said the situation puts the area of the surrounding community at risk of fire.

“We know that it’s caused by human action. It (the burning) risks fire spreading to the nearby houses, putting residents in danger,” said Muhd Shareeni, who noted the situation could be exacerbated if continued into the coming dry season.

Frustrated residents in Kampung Pandan want action to be taken against the culprits to deter the practice from becoming the norm every time grass is cut.

“Burning the grass at the side of the road doesn’t make sense. You wouldn’t do it in your own compound. It’s a fire risk, an eyesore, affects the air quality and doesn’t solve the problem of long grass; it only makes it grow faster,” said one of the residents, Hjh Aminah Abd Hadi.

The three village heads of Kampung Pandan said no parties have been identified yet for causing the fires, which they said happened occasionally in previous years.

“We have yet to catch people doing it red-handed and have rarely seen the fires actively happening. In most instances, we only notice it the next day,” said Village Head of Pandan B Hj Abdul Malik Abu Bakar, who added that the neighbourhood watch has made it a point to patrol for possible burning.

Belait district representative to the Legislative Council Yang Berhormat Hj Mohd Yusof Dulamin said the responsibility for clearing the cut grass fell on the community and the private grass-cutters appointed by the Housing Development Department to service the area.

“When long grass is cut, it shouldn’t be left in piles on the roadside, as the grass will dry out and irresponsible people, some of whom can’t be bothered to clean the area, will just burn it,” he said.

“But this shouldn’t turn into a blame game where we just fault the private contractors for leaving the cut grass in piles.

“We as residents have to take responsibility to take action if we want to prevent the situation. After all, these affected areas are directly in front of our houses,” he added.

The Brunei Times