Indonesia: Riau told to be prepared for dry season

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 21 Jan 15;

All stakeholders in Riau have been urged to prepare for the approaching dry season as hot spots have been detected in a number of regions in the province.

Based on Terra and Aqua satellite monitoring conducted by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Pekanbaru station, eight hot spots were detected on Tuesday morning in four regencies.

Five of the hot spots were detected in Bengkalis regency and one each in the regencies of Pelalawan, Indragiri Hilir and Indragiri Hulu.

“Hot spots have continued to appear in the last few days in fluctuating numbers. Yet, so far, no haze has been spotted. If it looks dark, it’s because of cloud coverage,” said the station’s head, Sugarin.

He said the emergence of the hot spots was a sign that the dry season was approaching.

“Rain is no longer falling evenly and is becoming rare,” Sugarin said.

The dry season is expected to start in Riau early February and last until July.

Sugarin, therefore, called on all stakeholders to be cautious as the dry season increased the potential for forest and peatland fires.

Responding to the call, acting Riau governor Arsyadjuliandi “Andi” Rachman scheduled a meeting with all companies working in the forestry and plantation sectors in the province.

“We will continue warning the companies to be careful with regard to land and forest fires,” Andi said.

He added that last year severe haze occurred throughout February to April and that this year serious efforts had to be undertaken to prevent a recurrence.

The Riau provincial administration, he added, would continue coordinating with the Environment and Forestry Ministry as well as National Police headquarters to follow up with audits on companies’ compliance in preparing for the threat of fire.

According to the final evaluation conducted by the Riau Horticulture Agency, five companies previously declared less compliant presently meet the required safety standards.

Separately, Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Dolly Bambang Hermawan said his office had instructed all officers at the regency and city level to reactivate last year’s land and forest fire mitigation measures in anticipation of hot spots reappearing.

“Vulnerable spots have to be guarded continuously. Once found, a fire has to be quickly handled to prevent it from spreading,” Dolly said.

Meanwhile, in response to a land fire on Jan. 13, the Bengkalis regency administration called on companies and people not to clear land by fire.

“We never stop warning that perpetrators could face three years in prison and a minimum fine of
Rp 3 billion as stipulated in Law No. 32/2009 on environmental management and protection,” Bengkalis Police’s spokesperson Johansyah Syafri said.

He said the regency disaster mitigation agency and fire department had also been instructed to increase the monitoring of areas prone to fire.

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