Brown and blackened fields stretch as far as the eye can see at one of the hotspots of Indonesia’s recent forest fires in Muara Medak, South Sumatra.

The smoke is still visible and steaming weakly through the earth, typical of peatland fires: embers continue to burn below the surface of the ground even when the fires appear to have been extinguished.

“[The fires] happened just when we were starting to get our lives together here,” explains Edi Susanto, who has accompanied New Naratif to the location of the fires inside what’s known as a Social Forestry area in Muara Medak.

Members only

Log in or

Join New Naratif as a member to continue reading


We are independent, ad-free and pro-democracy. Our operations are member-funded. Membership starts from just US$5/month! Alternatively, write to sponsorship@newnaratif.com to request a free sponsored membership. As a member, you are supporting fair payment of freelancers, and a movement for democracy and transnational community building in Southeast Asia.

Richaldo Hariandja

Richaldo has been a journalist since 2013 and spent 4.5 years at the Media Indonesia Daily Newspaper, writing about politics, science, environmental issues, design and entertainment. He is greatly concerned about environmental issues in Indonesia and has been a member of the Society of Indonesia Environmental Journalists since 2016.