Friday, August 19, 2011


      Jakarta, Aug 19, 2011 (ANTARA) - Almost every year during the dry season several provinces in Indonesia are hit by forest and plantation fires.
      During August 2011 alone, some 11,000 hotspots were detected in Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan Provinces, according to data of the environmental affairs ministry.
      However, the forestry ministry`s data showed that during January-July 2011, the number of hotspots in Indonesia was 8,082.

      The forestry ministry claimed that the number of Indonesia`s hotspots was much smaller than 24,767 hotspots in Myanmar, 12,577 hotspots in Cambodia, or 11,076 hotspots in Laos.
      The data on the hotspots in ASEAN member countries was obtained from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)`s satellite monitoring.
      In Indonesia, hotspots were detected in six provinces prone to forest fires - Riau with 2,159 hotspots, West Kalimantan (809 hotspots), North Sumatera (600), Central Kalimantan (543), Jambi (455), South Kalimantan (259 hotspots).
      Most of the hotspots or 77 percent occurred in agricultural and plantation areas, and 23 percent in forest area mainly ignited by illegal loggers, according to the forestry ministry.
      In general the fires are man-made. Fire is usually seen as a cheap, easy and fast way to clear land for agriculture and plantation activities, but it is usually uncontrolable.
     Indonesia`s forest area reaches over 130 million hectares, the world`s third largest after Brazil and Congo. In 1982-83 and 1994, the country`s forest fires, among other things triggered by El Nino phenomenon, had destroyed 6.4 million hectares of forests, especially in East Kalimantan.
      The Indonesian government has been committed to cutting the number of hotspots by 20 percent annually through preventive efforts, in order to meet Indonesia`s pledge to reduce its emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

The central government has decided to interfere because there are so many hotspots that have been detected in several provinces and the local regions are unable to handle them, Environmental Affairs Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said in Jakarta recently.

"Now the National Agency of Disaster Mitigation (BNPB) is working to tackle hotspots by using cloud-seeding," Minister Gusti M Hatta said after opening a coordinating meeting on "Towards Green Indonesia".

The number of the country`s hotspots was considered big, and therefore the government would make man-made rains if the hostpots remained until the next five days, Deputy Minister Arief Yuwono, who is in charge of the environmental damage control and climate change, said.

He is optimistic that the number of hostpots would drop because rainy season is expected to begin in September.

The forestry ministry has allocated funds amounting to Rp164 billion to tackle forest and plantation fires, Masyhud, the forestry ministry`s public relations head said in a press statement on Friday (Aug 19).

Of the total funds, Rp9 billion has been allocated as a deconcentration funds in 33 provincial forestry offices to increase the regional forest fire fighting capability and to encourage preventive measures.

However, despite the preventive measure campaigns, the number of hot spots in South Kalimantan Province from January to August 3, 2011, increased drastically to 404, from 106 during the January-December 2010 period.

South Kalimantan`s Forest Fire Control Brigade recorded a total of 306 hot spots in July 2011 alone, said South Kalimantan`s Forest Fire Control Brigade`s Secretary Djoko Prihartanto recently.

The South Kalimantan provincial authorities mobilized Manggala Aqni fire extinguishers in Tanah Laut, Tanah Bumbu and Banjar, with 60 personnel in each region.

In the neighboring province of Central Kalimantan, the number of hotspots from forest and plantation fires in Kotawaringin Timur District, has also been increasing.

Hotspots have been detected in 15 sub districts, Kotawaringin Timur District, from August 1 to 17, 2011. Based on the monitoring of Terra and AQUA Satellites, there were 165 hotspots spread in the 15 sub districts during that period, Ian Septiawan, the head of the Kotawaringin Timur Nature Resource Conservation Office`s Conservation Section, said in Sampit, Central Kalimantan, recently.

"Haze coming from forest and plantation fires has covered Sampit City and surrounding areas, and it has disturbed the air and river traffics as well as the local people`s health," he said, hoping that the authorities would take legal action to stop the fires.

Septiawan urged local farmers not to open new farm land by burning bushes because the practice could get out of control and cause forest fires.

He also asked oilpalm plantation managers to remain alert toward possible forest fires which could spread to human resettlement.

Harianto, the head of the Haji Asan Sampit airport`s flight security and safety section, said several flight schedules had to be postponed due to haze.

The visibility in the airport`s runaway in the morning at 100-150 meters, while the ideal visibility for aviation is 500-1,000 meters minimally.

"For the sake of security and safety of passengers, we have to postpone several flight schedules until the runway is clear from haze," he said.

On Sumatra Island, most of the 267 hotspots detected were located in Riau Province, according to Marzuki of the Riau meteorology, climatology and geophysics office (BMKG).

Some 204 hotspots or 70 percent of Sumatra`s hotspots were located in Riau Province, which has been blanketed by haze reducing the visibility to 1,000 meters.

Of Riau Province`s 204 hotspots, 49 were detected in Rokan Hilir District, 32 in Siak, 29 in Bengkalis, 24 in Pelalawan, and 17 respectively in Rokan Hulu and Indragiri Hulu. Dumai city has 15 hotspots, Kampar 12, Indragiri Hilir six, and Kuantansinginsi three hot spots.

"We urge the people to stop igniting fires, and call on the authorities to intensify supervision to prevent fires from spreading to wider areas as they might produce much haze over Sumatra, especially Riau," Marzuki said.

On Thursday (Aug 18) alone, at least 36 new hotspots have formed on Sumatra Island, according to data obtained by the NOAA 18 satellite.

Head of Riau BMKG Yudhistira Mawaddah said in Dumai on Thursday, of the 36 new hotspots, 13 were detected in Riau Province.

The rest were in South Sumatra Province (11 hotspots), Jambi (eight), North Sumatra (two), Lampung (one), and Aceh (one), he said.

"Due to the severe dry season, several regions are threatened with drought, and forest as well as plantation fires," he said.

In Jambi Province, Sumatra, over 10 hectares of forest area at Bukit Sari Botanical Gargen, Teluk Rendah Pasar village, Tebo Ilir sub district, Tebo District, have been razed by fires since Tuesday (Aug 16).

Amin, a local inhabitant of Teluk Rendah, said here on Thursday that strong winds spread the fires quickly and the efforts to extinguish the fires were not easy.

Local people and authorities have been trying to put out the fires. Amin said he did not know the cause of the fires which are still flaring on Thursday (Aug 18).

In the past, the resulting smoke from fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan led to haze blanketing part of the country and even spilling across into neighboring countries` skies including in Malaysia and Singapore. ***4***


(T.F001/A/F001/B003) 20-08-2011 00:05:48

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