Official criticises ‘irresponsible’ farmers for open burning

National 1 minute, 46 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE chief executive officer of Brunei’s Heart of Borneo Centre yesterday criticised farmers who practise open burning on their plantations, describing them as “irresponsible”.

Speaking to The Brunei Times on the first day of the 10th Heart of Borneo Trilateral Meeting, Mahmud Hj Yussof said there was no reason for farmers to burn the land as it drains the soil’s nutrients.

“Open burning only benefits people by saving time through short-cutting the land preparation of clearing the land irresponsibly. Burning the soil causes the soil to lose its nutrients through a process called leaching after the land is burnt,” he said.

“This (practice of open burning) does not really contribute to the economy when you clear these places by fire. If you want to develop the land, you would have to consider how productive it is and you must have a system and good agriculture practices in place,” he said.

Mahmud said farmers can still carry out their agricultural activities without resorting to open burning and still enjoy the same harvests.

“By practising good agricultural practices, which does not involve any burning, farmers can plant their produce without destroying the land or negatively affecting the environment,” he said.

“First is to maintain soil fertility by not overdoing the site preparation (for planting). If you do so, operational and maintenance costs will be very high. You will spend even more money on reconditioning the soil itself afterwards,” he said.

He said saving the peat swamp forests that were ravaged by forest fires was key to the country’s efforts in promoting ecotourism and biotechnology.

“I am very thankful to the Land Department for having outlawed people from occupying the peat swamp forests.

“Having sporadic illegal agriculture only destroys our peat swamp forests despite knowing that our pristine peat swamp forests are endangered worldwide as Brunei houses the few remaining peat swamp forests that are still in pristine state. We have to protect these forests in order to tap into its economic potential,” he added.

Under the Penal Code Amendment Order 1998, open burning offenders can get fined up to $100,000.

The Brunei Times