Friday, March 11, 2016


     Jakarta, March 11 , 2016 (Antara)- The traumatic experiences due to forest fires and the consequent haze disaster are still fresh in the minds of Sumatrans, yet new hotspots indicating fires have reportedly reemerged in several provinces on Sumatra Island.
     The Terra and Aqua satellites detected 28 hotspots in eight of Sumatra's 10 provinces on March 10, 2016, with only Aceh and Bengkulu Provinces having no hotspots.
     Of the total 28 hotspots, 11 were detected in Riau, five in North Sumatra, three each in Bangka Belitung and Jambi, two each in Riau Islands and Lampung, and one each in West Sumatra and South Sumatra.
    The number of hotspots on the island reached 69 on March 6, including 53 hotspots found in Riau Province and 16 in North Sumatra, Head of the Pekanbaru Meteorology Office Sugarin said.
    He said 37 hotspots in Riau indicated forest and plantation fires.  On March 5, 53 hotspots were also detected in Riau.

     On March 4, as many as 45 hotspots were detected in seven districts and cities in Riau, including 21 in Bengkalis District and 14 in Siak 14.
     Of the 45 hotspots in Riau, 26 were confirmed to have been caused by forest, peatland, and plantation fires. Of the 26 hotspots, 12 were found in Bengkalis, five in Dumai, eight in Siak, and one in Pelalawan District.
      According to data of the local Regional Military Command (Korem), 164 out of around 1,800 villages in Riau are prone to forest and land fires.
    On March 7, the Riau provincial government declared an emergency alert status, indicating the need to expedite the efforts to prevent and handle forest and land fires following the discovery of the hotspots.
     Acting Governor of Riau Arsyadjuliandi Rachman remarked that the province had funds amounting to some Rp100 billion, which could be channeled to support the efforts to tackle the fires.
   The status, which will remain effective for three months, is aimed at expediting the measures to handle and prevent forest and land fires.
    Riau's district administrations of Meranti, Bengkalis, Dumai, Rokan Hilir, Siak, and Pelalawan had earlier also declared the emergency alert status.
     With the alert status upgraded to emergency, the relevant authorities will be able to focus their efforts to prevent and extinguish the forest and land fires through an optimum use of resources, he affirmed.
  Rachman said this anticipatory step was taken after consulting the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG)-Pekanbaru station, which predicted that rainfall intensity in Riau was on the lower side.
    A number of coastal areas in Riau Province have been witnessing a dry season. The forest and land fires have hit those areas since mid February 2016 due to a drastic drop in rainfall.
   Not only on Sumatra Island but the environmental affairs and forestry ministry's team also found some 370 to 500 hotspots of forest fires on Papua Island in early February this year.
     "It is a matter of concern since there were no hotspots in Papua last year, and this year, the number is already some 370 to 500," Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya noted on February 19.
     The fires were not being caused by any act of corporations but resulting due to the local people's lifestyle habits, she pointed out.
    The ministry sent a team to Papua last January  and found local people burning old grass in order to prepare the ground to grow fresh grass for cattle.
      Besides, fires were also lit up on purpose along the banks of rivers and lakes to catch fish.
     The central and local governments need to inform the communities regarding certain traditional slash and burn methods that are allowed, the minister said.
      "It should be firmly ensured that there must be no fire in peatland area, and that it is allowed in other areas with clear restrictions," she said.      
   She said use of fire in hunting must be avoided because it could spark a bigger fire.
    Furthermore, to anticipate and prevent forest fires, the government is empowering the rural communities, according to Chairman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Willem Rampangilei.
     "In this case, the communities are a section of the society that will take early action in any disaster," he stated while speaking at a press conference on "The Latest Disaster Mitigation Efforts" held in Jakarta recently.
      In fire-prone regions, the rural communities must be actively involved in preventing the outbreak of fires, he emphasized.
       To this end, the government will improve their organizational capability, increase their awareness of disaster risks, and strengthen their ability to prevent forest fires.
     "Besides this, control commands will also be developed from rural to national levels, so that the preventive efforts undertaken by communities would be well-planned, coordinated, integrated, and measurable," he added.
     The concept is being developed based on experiences in empowering rural communities by the regional governments, NGOs, and companies, he explained.    
     Community-based preventive measures will be implemented, particularly in regions prone to forest fire disasters, he remarked.
    The government will also provide adequate facilities to support the efforts.     
    Besides, the World Bank has provided a grant amounting to some US$12 million this year to help prevent forest fires.
      The World Bank recorded that forest and plantation fires, which had ravaged Indonesia last year, inflicted material losses worth trillions of rupiah, in addition to the operational costs involved in extinguishing the fires, Rampangilei noted while attending a Movement on Prevention of Forest and Plantation Fires in Palembang, South Sumatra, recently.
     He lauded South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin for launching the movement involving personnel of the military, police, NGO activists, and firefighters.
 11-03-2016 15:04:27

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