Indonesia: VP Boediono calls for preventive measures against forest fires

Antara 24 Sep 14;

Palembang, South Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Vice President Boediono has called on the Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to intensify preventive measures against forest fires.

"I ask the National Disaster Mitigation Agency to prioritize prevention. It should take action before fires flare up. This is the most effective measure," the vice president said during a coordinating meeting on forest fire mitigation efforts, here on Tuesday.

The meeting discussed the current forest fires that produced smog in a number of provinces across Indonesia, including in South Sumatra, Jambi, Riau, Central Kalimantan, and South Kalimantan.

The wild fires and subsequent smog threatened the publics health and transportation safety, he added.

BNPB Head Syamsul Maarif shared the vice presidents concern, saying that dealing with forest fire problem was urgent.

This year, forest fires had occurred since February, when the country still experienced rainy season. In the past, forest fires happened only during June-October period, in dry season, according to him.

The number of hotspots of forest and plantation fires detected on Tuesday was 40 in South Sumatra, 41 in West Kalimantan, and 41 in Central Kalimantan.

The visibility in Pekanbaru (Riau) was five kilometers, in Palembang (South Sumatra) four kilometers, in Pontianak (West Kalimantan) five kilometers, Palangkaraya (Central Kalimantan) four kilometers, Banjarmasin (South Kalimantan) three kilometers, and Samarinda (East Kalimantan) five kilometers.

Indonesia government should map fire prone areas: Walhi
Antara 24 Sep 14;

Sungailiat, Bangka Belitung (ANTARA News) - The environmental non-governmental organization Wahana Lingkungan Hidup (Walhi) of Bangka Belitung province urged the provincial and district administrations to map fire-prone forest areas, Walhi Executive Director of Bangka Belitung Ratno Budi stated here on Wednesday.

He remarked that mapping can assist the authorities and people in supervising and taking pertinent actions during incidents of forest fires in the areas.

"As of now, the administrations have not mapped the fire prone areas. Any fire prevention and extinguishment are done according to the peoples reports," Ratno noted.

He pointed out that there have been several instances of fire sparks in peatland areas such as in Baturusa and Selindung, which are prone to forest fires.

"We have to take action to prevent forest fires," Ratno affirmed.

The administration should also strongly monitor forest areas that have been converted to plantations by large-scale business sectors.

"I can see that the administrations are more likely to wait until the people report about the fires rather than proactively take preventive actions," Ratno stated, adding that appropriate actions should be taken to prevent the fires.

Satellite detects 187 hotspots in C. Kalimantan
Antara 24 Sep 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - NOAA-18 Satellite has detected 187 hotspots of forest and plantation fires across Central Kalimantan Province on September 24.

"187 hotspots have been detected in all the districts in Central Kalimantan Province, and the highest number (34) of hotspots was detected in East Kotawaringin," Ananto Setiawan, spokesperson for the Central Kalimantan Emergency Response Post, reported on Wednesday.

Hotspots have also been found in Katingan, West Kotawaringin (25), East Kotawaringin (34), Kapuas (30), Palangka Raya (19), Gunung Emas (5), East Barito (7) and North Barito (5). During September 1-23, 2014, a total of 1,632 hotspots had been detected in the province, Ananto noted.

Ananto remarked that the Mangala Agni Team monitored the hotspots and tried to extinguish the fires.

"The team has been working hard to extinguish the fires. But, if the local farmers continue to burn forest areas for farming or plantation purposes, it will create smog in Central Kalimantan," he affirmed.

He called on the local communities to be aware of the fires and asked them to report any forest or land fires.

Forests and dry land in Central Kalimantan are easy to catch fire due to the extreme heat of the sun.

"Let us keep vigil and anticipate forest or land fires in Central Kalimantan," he said.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is streamlining its efforts to handle the forest fires in South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan and Riau in Indonesia, the agencys Acting Secretary Dody Ruswandi stated here on Tuesday.

"Right now, our focus is on handling the forest fires in those three provinces, which have the highest number of hotspots," Dody emphasized.

According to him, the officials from the BNPB and related agencies had tried to extinguish the forest fires through land and air operations.

Moreover, the BNPBs spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, reported that nine helicopters and a Hercules airplane belonging to the Air Force have been deployed to extinguish the forest fires.

The Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) will also carry out the cloud seeding operations till October to extinguish the fires.

"We are optimizing our efforts to extinguish the fires and prevent them from spreading," Sutopo stated.

Earlier in the day, it was reported that thick haze had engulfed most of Riau provinces capital city, Pekanbaru, since Tuesday morning.

"The haze is very disturbing," Ardiawan, a 34-year-old local resident, said on Tuesday.

Ardiawan, who works at a courier company, expressed concern that the haze could harm his health.

The Antara reporter on Tuesday morning observed a thick haze blanketing Pekanbaru. The haze continued to engulf the city even at noon, thereby reducing visibility for road users.

The Riau government has allocated a budget of Rp10 billion to fight the effects of haze in the area.

Riaus Deputy Governor Kasiarudin noted that the local government was taking every measure to stop the forest fires from spreading.

"We have established a local disaster mitigation agency, which reports to the governor and related authorities on a daily basis," Kasiarudin remarked.