Indonesia: Nip Wildfires in the Bud, President Jokowi Says

Eko Prasetyo Jakarta Globe 13 Aug 16;

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo held a cabinet meeting at his office on Friday (12/08) to respond to wildfire emergency alerts being raised by five provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan as the dry season comes close to its peak.

The emergency alert — which activated a series of coordinated responses — was declared by the governors of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.

"I saw several fire spots in Riau, North Sumatra and South Sumatra. We should put them all out before they spread," Jokowi said in a statement.

Despite the alerts, the president said there are fewer fire spots this year compared to last year. "74 percent fewer, the data said. But we still have 217 fire spots across Indonesia, and all of them need to be put out quickly," Jokowi said.

Jokowi praised residents in several provinces who have volunteered to join fire patrols and called for the use of cloud-seeding planes to create artificial rain and prevent the wildfires from spreading.

The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) already have 16 water-bombing and patrol helicopters, two water-bombing planes and eight cloud-seeding planes on standby.

Enforce the law, prevent wildfires

The president also stressed the importance of enforcing the law against those who caused the wildfires. The president said he would no longer grant new concessions to companies in peat land areas, and called on the Forestry Minister and Peat Land Restoration Agency to rehabilitate areas destroyed by fires last year.

"We have to be firm on people who break the law by starting up fires in forest and peat land areas. Sanctions should be imposed, and implemented. The public deserves justice," Jokowi said.

President orders for immediate action against forest fires
Antara 12 Aug 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has passed order for immediate action to prevent forest fires from spreading and became out of control.

Forest fires have been reported Riau and West Kalimantan spreading fast over the past week.

Jokowi said it is predicted that forest and bush fires were more devastating in August and September, therefore, action must not be delayed to put an end to fire when they are still easier to control.

He said there were fewer dots of fires compared with in the same period last year .

"But I want to draw your attention, that there are 217 dots of fire all over the country potential to cause big problem ," the president said at limited cabinet meeting here on Friday.

He said the fires already broke out in Riau and South Sumatra and North Sumatra although attempts had been made from the air and over land by fire fighters to isolate and put out the fires.

Attempts from the air is made with water bombs dropped from helicopters while overland firefighters sprayed water.

He said artificially made rain could also be produced when the sky was still wrapped with clouds.

He said law enforcement must also be effective imposing administrative or criminal sanctions against perpetrators to meet sense of justice.

He reminded relevant agencies that no more license for exploitation of peat lands, and evaluation has to be made to ensure that restoration of damaged peat lands is effective.

On Thursday the South Jakarta District court a punished a sago starch producer PT Nasional Sago Prima (NSP) for fire in its concession land last year destroying peat land.

The court decided in favor of the Forestry and Environment Ministry, which filed the lawsuit against the company.

Director General Law Enforcement of the Ministry Rasio Ridho Sani described the court verdict as historical.

"This is a historical decision against injustice on the environment and human rights," Rasio said.

It was rare that big corporation lost cases in forest fires that have extensively devastated the countrys tropical forests over the past year .(*)

President wants sub-districts to have forest fire command posts
Antara 13 Aug 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has asked all relevant agencies to set up land and forest fire command posts up to a sub-district level to prevent and handle land and forest fires.

"The president has asked all ranks and files including the Home Affairs Ministry, the National Defense Forces, and the National Police to make every effort to set up command posts at a sub-district level," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said in a press conference after a limited cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace here on Friday.

Pramono said on Friday evening, President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla chaired two limited cabinet meetings. The first meeting discussed land and forest fire control and the second meeting discussed the establishment of more state-owned holding companies.

"The president has reminded all ranks and files of the need to take steps as early as possible to prevent a recurrence of the 2015 land and forest fires," he said.

Therefore, they must prepare an early warning system from now on to detect any sign of land and forest fires. As the satellite can detect the land and forest fires, they can take preventive measures from the beginning, he said.

Based on the satellite image, land and forest fires can be handled under the coordination of the Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal and Security Affairs and the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, he said.(*)

Efforts to tackle forest fires should be done quickly, effectively: Widodo
By Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 12 Aug 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo has reminded members of his cabinet that efforts to tackle forest fires in the country should be done expeditiously and effectively.

“I wish to bring to your attention that there are still 217 hotspots that should be monitored in Indonesia. I hope that quick measures in prevention and handling (of the forest fires) are done in a timely and effective manner,” online news portal reported Mr Widodo as saying at a meeting at the President's Office on Friday (Aug 12).

Cabinet members present included Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto, and Health Minister Nila Moeloek.

Mr Widodo urged cabinet members not to let the number of hotspots increase, saying they will be difficult to quell when they grow to the thousands.

Still, he noted there has been a significant drop in forest fires compared to last year. “The report which I’ve received is very good. There has been a significant, 74 per cent reduction,” said Mr Widodo.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said that air quality has also improved. Readings for the air pollution standards index in Sumatra and Kalimantan are at moderate to good levels, the agency said. Visibility in many areas is also normal and has not disrupted activities in schools and flights at the airports.

However, the agency cautioned that based on past data, the forest fire hotspots usually peak from September to October. In anticipation of this, five provinces in Indonesia have been placed on emergency alert: Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan. Riau province has been on alert since March this year and this will continue to be so until the end of November.

The five provinces were the worst-hit by forest fires last year, which blanketed parts of Indonesia and the region.

- CNA/hs

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