Indonesia: President Jokowi calls for increased vigil against forest fires

Antara 23 Jan 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has reminded ministers and regional authorities to remain vigilant against forest fires, starting from early this year.

"It is only January, but it is already dry. Hence, do not be careless. The BMKG (the meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency) has forecast that 2017 will be drier as compared to 2016," Jokowi remarked at the State Palace, here, Monday, while opening a coordination meeting on forest and plantation fires.

The meeting was attended by Commander of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) General Gatot Nurmantyo; National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian; Coordinating Minister for Political, Law, and Security Affairs Wiranto; Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya; South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin; Jambi Governor Zumi Zola; and several other governors.

Forest and plantation fires had affected 2.089 million hectares of area and inflicted financial losses worth Rp220 trillion in 2015.

The 2015 wildfires affected commercial flights, offices, businesses, schools, and public health.

Some 504 thousand people suffered from respiratory ailments, and flora and fauna habitats were damaged, as 2.6 million hectares of forest areas were gutted by wildfires.

"Hence, we have to anticipate and prevent the 2015 fires from recurring. We should be grateful that in 2016, (the number of hotspots of forest fires) dropped by up to 82 to 83 percent, and we hope that it would further decrease in 2017," the head of state noted.

Based on monitoring data of the NOAA satellite, the number of hotspots in 2016 had decreased by 82.14 percent compared to that in 2015, while the Terra and Aqua satellites showed that the drop was 94.58 percent.

Jokowi urged concerned stakeholders to prepare early preventive measures against wildfires.

"On this good occasion, I would like to thank everyone who has carried out this big job," he remarked, adding that he was optimistic of zero hotspots being recorded this year.

"Although I know it would be impossible, however, we have to work hard to anticipate it," he pointed out.

In 2015, a 150-day emergency response period was declared, while in 2016, it was nil, according to Minister Wiranto.

(Reported by Desca Lidya Natalia/Uu.F001/INE/KR-BSR)

President Jokowi urges revocation of companies triggering forest fires
Antara 23 Jan 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has urged several related ministries such as the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to revoke permits of several companies that triggered land and forest fires in Indonesia.

"There were several permits that were revoked in 2015 and 2016. I have asked the ministries not to announce the notice of revocation of burner companies in 2017 but impose the sanctions directly," Jokowi said here on Monday.

According to Jokowi, the government would take firm action to avoid land and forest fires.

The president added that the total loss in 2015 due to forest fires was worth Rp220 trillion.

He urged the law enforcers to take firm action to resolve incidents of forest fires.

Jokowi reiterated that some companies that own concession permits should maintain and preserve their own production fields by implementing friendly environment cultivation process.

He also asked the Peatland Restoration Agency or BRG to immediately restore the peatland areas that were burned in 2015.

"I hope the central government, the police, the Indonesian military and the provincial administration would simultaneously work together to avoid land and forest fires in 2017," he stated.

Additionally, the Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya also urged the companies not to burn their production fields.

"I will check several government rules that are supporting the presidents directives to avoid fires," she said.

Previously, Jokowi had reminded ministers and regional authorities to remain vigilant against forest fires starting from early this year.

The meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG) has forecast that 2017 will be drier compared to 2016.

The forest and plantation fires had affected 2.089 million hectares of land and caused financial losses worth Rp220 trillion in 2015.

(Reported by Desca Lidya/Uu.B019/INE/KR-BSR/F001)

Government outlines measures against likely forest fires
Antara 24 Jan 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto has outlined measures covering budget, human resources, and legal enforcement to be undertaken in the fight against forest and plantation fires this year.

"First, the Finance Minister and the head of the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) are expected to allocate a special budget for forest fire prevention efforts," Wiranto noted at the State Palace, here, Monday.

Secondly, the home affairs minister should revise Home Affairs Ministers Regulation No. 21 of 2011 on State Financial Guidance to allow local administrations to disburse budget for forest fire prevention measures at an early stage and not only during the emergency state.

Thirdly, governors, district heads, and mayors should educate the local inhabitants to not set fires while clearing land for farming.

Fourthly, plantation companies must abide by the regulations that ban the setting of fires to clear land.

"Fifth, legal enforcers must closely supervise and sanction any one breaking the regulations," Wiranto affirmed.

On the evaluation of forest fires in 2016, the minister quoted data of the NOAA satellites that the number of hotspots had dropped by 82.14 percent, or 94.58 percent, according to the Terra and Aqua satellites.

The size of peatland and non-peatland areas gutted by fires also decreased by 83.21 percent.

"Last years forest fires did not have an impact on the socioeconomic and political conditions nationally and regionally, unlike those in 2015," he pointed out.

The public has become more aware of the importance of clearing land without using fire, he noted.

Besides this, La Nina natural phenomenon, which prolonged the rainy season in several regions, also helped in stopping forest fires in 2016.

Ministries and institutions coordinated with the local administrations in nine provinces, prone to forest fires, to closely monitor hotspots.

The ministries and institutions, include the environmental affairs and forestry ministry; agriculture ministry; the meteorological, climatology, and geophysics agency; National Aeronautic and Aerospace Agency; National Disaster Mitigation Agency; the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI); and the National Police (Polri).

The TNI, Polri, and other relevant stakeholders have also implemented a capacity building program to help train fire fighters and set up task forces against forest fires in the nine provinces.

Moreover, forest fire control brigades have also been established in 10 forestry-related units in five provinces: South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and Papua.

A total of 15,410 canals in peatland areas, 2,581 ponds, and 516 artesian wells have been built to store water to extinguish forest fires.

Stringent legal enforcement was also implemented, including by revoking the business licenses of three plantation companies, freezing licenses of 16 others, and issuing warnings to 115 companies.

The significant drop in last years forest fires was also due to intensified on-field patrols.

Wiranto said the meteorology agency had forecast that the climate in 2017 would be drier than that in 2016.

Hence, early prevention command posts need to be set up at the central, provincial, district, and rural levels to prevent forest fires, he stated.(*)

Jokowi orders early fire prevention for 2017
Haeril Halim The Jakarta Post 23 Jan 17;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has instructed related parties to devise early plans to tackle land and forest fires as hot spots have begun to emerge in several regions over the past two weeks. The official dry season begins in late January.

Jokowi warned all stakeholders attending the coordinated meeting on land and forest fire prevention at the State Palace that a failure to contain hot spots before they turned into fires could see the trauma of 2015 repeat itself this year. The fires that ravaged the country in 2015 resulted in Rp 220 trillion (US$16.5 billion) in material losses.

“We have to anticipate all possibilities in order not to see a repeat of 2015,” Jokowi said.

During the meeting, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto reported on the progress made by the government to contain land and forest fires in 2016.

The number of hot spots in 2016 decreased by up to 82.14 percent according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA satellites and up to 94.58 percent according to Terra and Aqua satellites.

Wiranto said that in 2015 a total of 2.6 million hectares of land and forest were burned up but the figure decreased in 2016 to just 438,360 hectares, thanks in part to the La Nina weather phenomenon that lengthened the rainy season in a number of regions.

“In 2015, the emergency status went for 151 days, while in 2016 the figure decreased to zero. This is a very good achievement,” Wiranto said.

Indonesian government remains vigilant on forest fires
Haeril Halim and Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 24 Jan 17;

While praising last year’s success in curbing land and forest fires, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has told regional heads to remain watchful in their respective regions and demanded the expansion of fire-prevention initiatives.

Jokowi reminded the dozens of regents, mayors and administrations from haze-prone regions he convened at the State Palace on Monday not to repeat “the mistakes of 2015”.

The fire season of 2015 saw the nation’s worst-ever haze crisis, which angered neighboring Singapore and Malaysia and caused Rp 221 trillion in economic losses to the country, an amount equal to 1.9 percent of national GDP in that year.

The fires, which damaged 2.6 million hectares of land and forests, claimed the lives of 24 people and brought respiratory problems to hundreds of thousands of people.

Jokowi told the local leaders to not become complacent despite the fact that the collective efforts made by the central government and local administrations had managed to contain land and forest fires last year, with almost no accidents. He added that this outcome was partly due to the La NiƱa weather phenomenon extending the rainy season.

The President said the focus in 2017 would be prevention and instructed all regional heads to declare emergency status as early as possible should they find any potential fire hot spots in their jurisdictions so that the central government could send aid.

“We all remember well how hard our struggle was in 2015, but all our efforts failed, because we were late to launch preventative measures. The [mistakes] of 2015 must not reoccur,” Jokowi said, staring sharply at his audience.

After a concerted effort by the central government, land and forest fires significantly decreased last year, with the total land area burned reduced to 438,360 ha. The number of hot spots also decreased by up to 82.1 percent according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites, and by up to 94.58 percent according to Terra and Aqua satellites.

As of Monday, only two regions, Rokan Hilir regency and Dumai city in Riau, had declared emergency status. However, Jokowi called on all nine haze-prone provinces to follow suit as between early and mid-January the government had recorded hot spots starting to emerge in six provinces, namely Jambi, Riau, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, West Sumatra and North Sumatra.

Jokowi also ordered relevant agencies to improve their early warning systems to detect hot spots and to have helicopters on standby. He also instructed them to prepare artificial rain before the dry season started in late January, the period when if left untreated hot spots can quickly turn into fires.

The President also ordered the National Police to thoroughly investigate and arrest all land burners and increase air patrols to monitor haze-prone regions, especially those in Riau and Kalimantan.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said that as part of its preventative measures the government had dug 15,410 canals, 2.581 embung (ponds) and drilled 516 wells to raise the moisture of peatland areas in haze-prone provinces.

“In 2016, we also revoked three concession permits as well as suspended another nine permits. In total, 17 companies are under investigation. Local administrations have also reprimanded 115 companies,” Wiranto said.

Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) head Nazir Foead said that starting in 2017 the BRG would brief farmers as well as company representatives on how to clear land without burning.

“There are three available options. The first one is encouraging them to use tractors, but this way costs a lot of money. The second is encouraging them to burn trees they cut down inside drums to minimize the haze. This trick takes time,” Nazir said.

Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) research and environmental law department head Zenzi Suhadi argued that region’s merely raising the fire danger level from alert to emergency status would not be effective.

He says alert status should not just mean that the government is able to deploy necessary resources to extinguish fires.

“Alert status should mean that all costs of prevention, management and recovery from the fires and haze should be borne by those responsible for starting them. If we apply these conditions, then the alert status will be effective,” Zenzi said.

Indonesian President instructs authorities to prepare early for forest fires this year
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 23 Jan 17;

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo has urged all relevant authorities to be ready to fight any forest fires this year.

Speaking at a coordination meeting on the issue on Monday (Jan 23), Mr Widodo reminded those present about the devastation in 2015. Swathes of land were destroyed and the air quality was one of the worst on record, affecting not only Indonesia but also several countries in Southeast Asia. Indonesian authorities spent about 1 trillion rupiah (US$74 million) to tackle the fires.

"I believe we all remember about the fires in 2015. We were really in disarray. But, the fires were already too big, all our efforts were in vain," said Mr Widodo at the State Palace.

Since then, Indonesia has stepped up efforts to prevent forest fires, which included introducing a ban on converting peatlands into plantations

Mr Widodo noted that in 2016, the number of hotspots went down by about 83 per cent and said that he hoped it could be further reduced this year. He instructed officials to continue the measures taken last year and to raise the alert status on forest fires earlier.

He added that data from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) showed that it would be drier in Indonesia this year compared to 2016, increasing the risk of more forest fires.

Mr Widodo also stressed there must be strict law enforcement, and that communities as well as corporations needed to adhere to the government's regulations.

A number of regencies in Indonesia's Riau province have already raised the alert level, which would allow the central government to send aid to the regions.

The head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency in Rokan Hulu regency, Aceng Herdina, told the Jakarta Post that hotspots have recently been detected in a number of districts, and have been identified as forest and land fires.

- CNA/nc

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