Indonesia: Companies take steps to reduce forest fires in Indonesia

Indonesian pulpwood giant steps up with new measures
New Paper 28 Mar 16;

Some Singaporeans have noticed a burning smell lingering in the air over the weekend.

But the Pollutant Standards Index values (PSI) remained in the moderate levels, according to the National Environment Agency.

Those in Indonesia, however, are not so lucky. Early this month, the western province of Riau declared a state of emergency over forest and land fires blazing on the island of Sumatra.

And Indonesian pulpwood giant Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP)has stepped in to to announce concrete steps it is taking towards haze-free skies, with US$20 million (S$27.4 million) being pumped into its fire prevention and suppression efforts.

More than 400 of APP's employees, as well as staff from the company's suppliers, will be trained by fire management experts from Canada and South Africa under the Incident Command System (ICS).

The ICS is a standardised approach to the command, control and coordination of emergency response.

Also part of the front-line defence: two fire detection drones with thermal imaging cameras capable of near real-time data delivery, and a fleet of water-bombing helicopters, said APP.

Grouped together as mobile fire management teams, the new aircraft and the ICS teams can be deployed rapidly to high-fire risk locations.

These locations are identified based on data from national bi-weekly fire risk reviews.

Recognising the need to engage the local community to fight forest fires, APP signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with seven villages in the South Sumatra region as part of its agroforestry programme.

This MOU will help the communities raise their standard of living and improve their livelihood by providing them with training and support to grow crops with better revenue yield.

Other firms, like PT Smart Tbk, have also launched programmes to work with the local community to cut down forest fires.

PT Smart Tbk, which is a subsidiary of palm oil producer Golden Agri-Resources, launched its Desa Siaga Api programme in eight villages in West Kalimantan early this month. The programme aims to empower local communities to prevent fires.

TRAINED

Villagers will be trained and will be provided with facilities and equipment to extinguish fires.

Those that are successful in reducing or eliminating fires will be eligible for additional support through social infrastructure development aid or technical assistance from PT Smart Tbk.

Another major palm oil producer, Sime Darby Plantation (SDP), launched a fire hot spot dashboard last year.

The dashboard monitors incidences of hot spots in the region using satellite data. It will also indicate the actions taken by the respective estates to extinguish fires.

SDP's operating company PT Bhumireksa Nusa Sejati and Riau University have been training local communities in sustainable farming practices and educating them on the benefits of zero burning.

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