Indonesia: 29 hotspots detected across Sumatra island

Antara 31 Aug 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - As many as 29 hotspots were detected across Sumatra Island in the morning of Wednesday.

"Three hotspots were found in Bengkulu, one in Jambi, 21 in South Sumatra, four in Bangka Belitung, and nil in Riau," spokesman of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency Hary T Djatmiko said in in a statement, here on Wednesday.

Although Riau Province has no hotspot, the visibility in Pekanbaru is seven kilometers, in Rengat four kilometers, and in Dumai seven kilometers.

Pelalawan is foggy and the visibility is five kilometers.

Forest fires have hit several Indonesian provinces lately.

Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar claimed that the number of forest fire cases had dropped drastically by 75 percent until August this year, compared to last year.

The National Police have handled 498 cases of forest fire across Indonesia until August 2016, including to 85 cases in Riau, compared to last years 275 cases.

A total of 88 thousand hectares of forest, peatland, and land areas across Indonesia were gutted by fires, a drop from 190 thousand hectares in the same period last year.

In Riau, wildfires razed some 3,000 ha area.


All hotspots in Riau successfully extinguished: Agency
Chandni Vatvani, Channel NewsAsia 31 Aug 16;

JAKARTA: All hotspots in the fire-prone province of Riau had successfully been extinguished by firefighters, restoring air quality to a “good level", said Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Wednesday (Aug 31).

In a press statement, agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said satellite monitoring showed 156 hotspots spread across 21 provinces throughout Indonesia, none of which originated from Sumatra’s Riau province.

“Satellite observations and aerial patrols showed no burning. Thin smoke is rising from previously burned locations,” the statement said.

It added that “air quality measurements in Sumatra showed favourable results. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in Pekanbaru, Kampar, Pelalawan, Siak, Dumai, Rokan Hilir, Bengkalis, Riau, Palembang, Aceh and Jambi were all below a reading of 50. That is good and healthy air.”

In contrast, 14 hotspots were monitored in West Java while in West Kalimantan, the hotspots increased to 48 from 43 previously, mostly because of land-clearing activities. Despite this, air quality remained in a good condition generally, he said.

In the statement, Dr Sutopo said that an integrated task force has continued their efforts in tackling the land and forest fires to douse the flames. The efforts by the government have yielded “encouraging results", and the number of hotspots has “significantly reduced".

Firefighters on the ground are spraying water over burnt peatland, while patrols have been intensified in residential areas, open ground, forests and plantations. In addition to these measures, five helicopters and two planes are conducting air patrols, water bombing and cloud-seeding activities.

According to the statement, as many as 576 suspects have been arrested for using fire in land-clearing activities. “The challenge on the field is that people still burn their farms to open up the land,” Dr Sutopo said in the statement. He added that fires were located away from sources of water, which was a limitation to the efforts.

- CNA/nc


Pulp firm Bumi Mekar Hijau found guilty of starting illegal fires
Francis Chan and Arlina Arshad, The Straits Times Jakarta Post 31 Aug 16;

The Palembang High Court in South Sumatra has overturned a lower court's decision to clear pulpwood firm Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) of illegally setting fires on its concession land in 2014.

According to a copy of the Aug. 12 ruling that was seen by The Straits Times, the firm was found to have "committed an unlawful act".

The High Court also ordered BMH, which supplies products to Indonesia's Sinar Mas Group, to pay Rp 78.5 billion (US$5 million) in damages.

The award is a small fraction of the Rp 7.8 trillion in damages sought by the Environment and Forestry Ministry when it first filed the civil suit against BMH last year.

Still, green groups such as the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) hailed the latest verdict as a "small win" for Indonesia's conservation efforts.

Walhi's South Sumatra chapter director Hadi Jatmiko said: "On the one hand, the court is on the side of the environment by saying BMH is guilty of having illegally burnt 20,000 ha of its own concession in 2014. But it is disappointing that the compensation is less than 1 percent of the total sum demanded."

Jasmin Ragil Utomo, who is from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, Tuesday acknowledged the court's decision.

"The most important thing is that the court has declared that the company has committed a violation," said Jasmin, who is the ministry's director for environmental dispute settlement.

BMH's lawyers declined to comment on the case, saying they have not received an official copy of the latest verdict.

This is not the first time BMH is in the news over allegations related to forest fires. Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency earlier this year said the firm has been ordered to restore 95,000 ha of damaged peatland in its concessions.

Satellite data from Global Forest Watch detected at least 22 fire alerts in their pulpwood concessions between Aug. 21 and Aug. 28.

Indonesia - through its Environment and Forestry Ministry - has been taking errant firms to task over illegal forest fires that have been the cause of transboundary haze pollution.

Haze from fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra returned in recent weeks, prompting fears of a repeat of last year's crisis, which sent air pollution levels to a record high and affected millions of people in the region.

Tuesday, heavy rainfall across Indonesia provided much-needed relief for people in Sumatra's Riau Islands province.

Several areas in Riau were hit by severe air pollution in recent days, prompting some schools to suspend classes since Monday.

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) Tuesday said a combination of rain and fire-fighting efforts, including cloud-seeding operations, helped improve air quality.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who heads BNPB's data and information division, said the air pollution standard index for most regions in Sumatra was generally under 50, or in the "good" range.

In Riau's Rokan Hilir regency - one of the worst-hit areas in recent days and where fire-fighting efforts were focused Tuesday - the air quality was "moderate".

"Fire-fighting operations in the six provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan will continue," said Sutopo.

A total of five BNPB helicopters as well as three fixed-wing aircraft have been deployed to douse fires in Riau, he added.


Indonesia claims it has extinguished all Riau hotspots
Today Online 1 Sep 16;

JAKARTA — All hotspots in the fire-prone province of Riau have been extinguished by firefighters and air quality has been restored to a “good level”, claimed Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Wednesday (Aug 31).

In a press statement, agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said satellite monitoring showed 156 hotspots are now spread across 21 provinces throughout Indonesia but none can be seen in Sumatra’s Riau province.

“Satellite observations and aerial patrols showed no burning. Thin smoke is rising from previously burned locations,” the statement said.

“Air quality measurements in Sumatra showed favourable results. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in Pekanbaru, Kampar, Pelalawan, Siak, Dumai, Rokan Hilir, Bengkalis, Riau, Palembang, Aceh and Jambi were all below a reading of 50. That is good and healthy air.”

In contrast, 14 hotspots were seen in West Java while in West Kalimantan, the hotspots increased to 48 from 43 previously, mostly because of land-clearing activities. Despite this, air quality remained in a good condition generally, Dr Nugroho said.

In the statement, Dr Nugroho said that an integrated task force has continued to tackle land and forest fires to douse the flames. The efforts by the government have yielded “encouraging results”, and the number of hotspots has “significantly reduced”.

Firefighters on the ground are said to be spraying water over burnt peatland, while patrols have been intensified in residential areas, open ground, forests and plantations. In addition to these measures, five helicopters and two planes are conducting air patrols, water bombing and cloud-seeding activities.

According to the statement, as many as 576 suspects have been arrested for using fire in land-clearing activities. “The challenge on the field is that people still burn their farms to open up the land,” Dr Nugroho said in the statement. He added that fires were located away from sources of water, which has hindered fire fighting efforts.

Mr Andersen Panjaitan, a forecaster from Indonesia’s meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency told TODAY earlier in the week that latest satellite imagery shows the situation in Sumatra has improved in recent days due to more rainfall.

Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand suffered the worst haze outbreak in years from September to November last year. The crisis affected tens of millions of people, forcing the closure of schools and causing thousands to fall sick across the region.

Singapore’s air quality hit the “unhealthy” range on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) last Friday, as smoke was blown in from central Sumatra by prevailing westerly winds.

An advisory issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Wednesday evening said that four hotspots were detected in Sumatra. Overall, the PSI for the next 24 hours is forecast to be in the moderate range, said the advisory.

“In the next few days, the prevailing winds are expected to gradually shift to blow from the southwest or west,” said the NEA.

“Slightly hazy conditions can be expected over the weekend if fires emerge in Sumatra and the situation deteriorates over the next few days,” the advisory said, adding that the NEA is monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates when necessary.

Singapore’s Parliament passed a Transboundary Haze Pollution Act in 2014, aimed at deterring and prosecuting entities that are responsible for transboundary haze pollution in the city state, whether Singaporean or foreign.

Earlier this week, Indonesia’s police chief General Tito Karnavian described a Singapore law passed to address the burning of peatlands and forests that could potentially prosecute Indonesian citizens as a “serious problem for the people of Riau and also the reputation of the Indonesians”. The general however, did not specify what law he was referring to. AGENCIES

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