Indonesia: Riau ends haze emergency response

Antara 9 Jul 13;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Riau Province has ended forest fire and haze emergency response and is currently entering a transitional period for recovery.

"Since July 6, the emergency status has been revoked, and now is the transitional period for recovery," Agus Wibowo, a spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB)`s Haze Emergency Response Task Force, said here on Tuesday.

The Indonesian government had declared an emergency response status for Riau as of June 21 due to forest, peatland and plantation fires that had produced haze blanketing parts of Sumatra Island, Singapore and Malaysia.

The task force is currently trying to extinguish fires in Siak, Bengkalis and Dumai Districts, Riau Province. The NOAA 18 Satellite detected only three fire hotspots early this week.

"The task force`s focus is on Chevron area in Duri now. All helicopters and members of the Marine have been directed there," he said.

Around 2,000 members of the rapid reaction unit will return to Jakarta on June 21, 2013.

Vice Governor of Riau Mambang Mit has expressed his appreciation to those being involved in the fight against the fires, particularly personnel of the BNPB, the Agency for the Development and Application of Technology (BPPT), the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) and the National Police (Polri).

Meanwhile, the Police of Riau have arrested 23 suspects in connection with forest and peat land fires in the province.

Spokesperson of the Riau Police Command, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Hermansyah, said recently that two more suspects had been arrested following reports from local people making the number of the suspects to reach 23 who are all now under police detention.

The last two suspects namely Ham, arrested in Tanjung Leba Village, Bukit Batu Subdistrict of Bengkalis and BA, arrested in Sang Kemang Village, Koto Gasib Subdistrict of Siak District.

The 23 suspects have allegedly caused forest and land fires in 15 areas located in some districts in the Riau Province.(*)

Editor: Heru

Govt has spent Rp 57.7b on fighting fires in Riau
The Jakarta Post 9 Jul 13;

The government has spent Rp 57.7 billion (US$5.8 million) on the operation to extinguish land and forest fires in Riau since the haze emergency response-status came into effect in June.

“The funds that have been spent amount to Rp 57.7 billion,” said the National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s (BNPB) spokesperson for the haze emergency-response working group, Agus Wibowo, on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news agency.

The emergency-response status was announced on June 21 after Indonesia’s two immediate neighbors, Malaysia and Singapore, were badly affected by smoke and haze from raging land and forest fires in Riau.

“Around 2,000 personnel, mostly military and police members, have been deployed to tackle the haze disaster,” said Agus, adding that the personnel would be withdrawn on July 21.

He said funds remained available for forest fire extinguishing operations as the allocated reserve funds amounted to Rp 70 billion.

Agus said the budget was mostly spent on cloud seeding which cost Rp 20 billion. The deployment of police and military personnel cost up to Rp 10 billion.

Haze clouds are no longer affecting the two neighboring countries. Riau is now in a transition period of recovery as it has passed through the haze disaster response period.

However, the extinguishing process is still ongoing in several areas in northern Riau, such as Bengkalis, Dumai and Siak regencies. According to the results of the latest observation activities via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites, hot spots are now detected in only three spots. (ebf)

Less haze in Singapore as the cause becomes clearer and more complex
e! Science News 8 Jul 13;

Small and large-scale farmers in Riau province, Sumatra, have been blamed for the recent choking smoke smothering Singapore and parts of Malaysia. But scientists in Indonesia have added a third category of 'mid-level entrepreneurs'. These entrepreneurs buy unregulated access to land for oil palm and clear it by burning, seemingly unrestrained by government. Scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre, who have been studying land conversion in Sumatra, say they have identified this third group of local land investors who operate outside the government system, making them potentially more difficult to regulate.

These people acquire land under informal rules at village level, effectively sidestepping the Government land-use system. They bring in their own labour to clear the land for oil palm, regardless of the land's formal government status and in the absence of any permits to do so.

Policies and policing need to be adjusted to deal with the newly identified group if the annual fires and subsequent haze are to be reduced. Holding plantation companies accountable for the fires within their boundaries would help reduce the problem but not extinguish it.

About half of the fire 'hot spots' in Riau province are on land with legal permits for large-scale operations (industrial timber, oil palm and logging). The rest occur as part of illegal activities, in areas which have been slated for conservation or non-production.

These hot spots are mostly concentrated in three districts within Riau province. Some neighbouring districts with similar conditions have so far avoided the problem this year, which suggests that lessons might be learnt about governance.

The fire-haze episode straddling the Strait of Malacca in June 2013 has reignited a decades-long debate about responsibility. In the current debate, finger pointing still alternates between the small- and large-scale agricultural operators. The latter include companies with headquarters in Singapore and Malaysia, where the undesirable haze accompanies the financial returns on their investments.

Before 1998, the blame for starting the fires was put exclusively on smallholders' 'shifting cultivation' techniques, with large-scale plantations and development projects protected from any criticism by the government.

But the 1997/8 fires in Sumatra and the change of regime in Indonesia threw new light onto the debate and it became evident that burning was the cheapest option widely used by all farmers, whether on a small or large scale or on peat or mineral soils.

Further information: http://worldagroforestrycentre.org/regions/southeast_asia/publications?do=view_pub_detail&pub_no=PB0064-13

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