BENGKALIS REGENCY (RIAU PROVINCE): After days of fierce firefighting, aided by rain, the local authorities said on Monday that their satellite data showed that there were no longer any hot spots in the province.

But the National Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency - which has an office in the provincial capital of Pekanbaru - said it would keep monitoring the situation to see if all fires had really been extinguished.

Environmental activists, however, said that the scenario of raging fires resulting in choking haze would keep recurring each year, as long as cultivation activities on Riau's peat lands continued unabated.

Several giants in the oil palm and the pulp and paper industry own concessions either directly or through their subsidiaries throughout Riau province. They include Singapore-based companies like Wilmar International, Sinar Mas Group and Asia Pacific Resources International.

Activists say their activities have influenced local farmers to move from traditional crops to a more lucrative one - oil palm.

'When big companies come in and open a plantation, build the infrastructure - the canals and access roads - they attract local farmers to open their own plantations, as they can use the same infrastructure,' said Mr Teddy Hardiansyah, executive director of the Riau Haze Foundation.

No more hot spots