Indonesia: Land and forest fires rarely stop in Riau’s unique climate

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 7 May 16;

Hot spots are still present in a number of regencies in Riau province despite it being the rainy season.

The province — which is prone to disruptive, haze-producing land and forest fires — hopes to reduce its number of hot spots this year, especially in the fire-prone areas of Bengkalis, Rokan Hulu, Indragiri Hilir, Pelalawan and Meranti Islands.

“This is what the provincial and local administrations have been doing, controlling the growing number of hotspots,” acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi “Andi” Rachman said on Tuesday.

A number of efforts have been made to reach the target, he said, including issuing a gubernatorial decree on land and forest fire prevention. There are 16 action plans that need to be executed by the government and the administrations, especially those related to preparing equipment and personnel at companies with concession areas located on peatland.

“Firms with fires on their concession areas will be evaluated,” Andi said.

The Riau administration will involve not only the military, the National Police and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency ( BNPB ), but also ask locals to be more aware of potential fires in their areas.

The Riau administration has allocated Rp 123 billion ( US$9.4 million ) to preventing and dealing with the fires.

It also coordinates with the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency ( BMKG ) to detect fires.

“The experience of dealing with haze disasters since 2014 has left Riau better prepared to face dry seasons,” Andi said.

Riau has been made a pilot project in the prevention of land and forest fires, he said.

Head of Riau BMKG, Sugarin, said the province’s coastal areas of Bengkalis, Rokan Hilir, Pelalawan, Siak, Indragiri Hilir, Meranti Islands and Dumai were prone to fires because they rarely received rain.

He suggested the provincial and local administrations continue to be cautious of the emergence of hotspots in the eastern coastal regions, which are also home to a lot of fire-prone peatland.

Riau’s eastern coast has a unique climate, Sugarin said, as the areas did not follow rainy or dry seasons. He said there was such a difference in climate there that hotspots continued to emerge in Riau even during rainy season.

In many cases, companies have been deemed responsible for land and forest fires. In 2015 alone, from 8,399 hotspots detected by NASA satellites, 3,355 were inside the concession areas of industrial forestry companies and another 458 in oil palm plantation areas.

Many of the companies denied accusations made against them, arguing that lighting fires in their own concession areas would, in the end, cause huge financial losses for them.

They mostly blamed the fires on flames leaping from neighboring lands.

Law enforcement agencies has been frequently mentioned as an effective way to help control land and forest fires in the region.

This year alone, Riau Police have named 65 suspects of causing land fires. All of them were landowners and farm workers.

Riau Police spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo said that some of the suspects were caught red-handed while carrying out slash-and-burn methods. Others were arrested following a series of investigations.

“We have warned people not to clear land by burning it, but such practices still continue,” he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment