Jakarta: More than 450 people have been arrested in Indonesia for forest fires which, in previous years, have led to a cloud of toxic smoke that affected several countries in the region, police said on Friday.
National police chief Tito Karnavian said the arrests will be a deterrent for companies and farmers against starting fires to clear agricultural land, EFE news reported.
The number of fires this year, however, is lower as compared to 2014 and 2015, owing to a greater deployment of fire fighting teams and favourable weather conditions, the police said.
While around 486 fires have been detected in August so far, the figure for the same period last year stood at 14,451.
“The number of people arrested this year has risen as compared to last year. This is one factor why the number of forest fires have fallen significantly,” said Karnavian, adding in 2015, 196 people were arrested for starting forest fires.
He said, the police also initiated charges against nine companies between January and August this year.
Last year, the fire-induced haze was so severe that it prompted Indonesian President Joko Widodo to seek help from Japan, Malaysia, Russia and Singapore.
Besides provoking regular protests from Singapore and Malaysia over air pollution, the 2015 fires also cost Indonesia $16.1 billion, or 1.9 percent of its GDP, according to the World Bank.