Indonesia: Government empowering community to prevent forest fires

Antara 3 Mar 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government is empowering the rural community to prevent forest fires, Chairman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Willem Rampangilei stated.

"In this case, the community is a section of the society that will take early action in any disaster," he stated while speaking at a press conference on "The Latest Disaster Mitigation Efforts" held here on Wednesday.

In fire-prone regions, the rural community must be actively involved in preventing the outbreak of fires.

To this end, the government will improve their organizational capability, increase their awareness of disaster risks, and strengthen their capability in preventing forest fires.

"Besides this, control commands will be developed at the rural to national level, so that the preventive efforts undertaken by the community would be well-planned, coordinated, integrated, and measurable," he emphasized.

The concept is being developed based on experiences in empowering rural communities by the regional governments, NGOs, and companies, he explained.

Parts of Indonesia are still reeling under the impacts of the El Nino natural phenomenon, which poses high risks of disaster, he added.

He noted that the agency had currently outlined priorities, including the mitigation efforts to tackle landslides, forest fires, and the Sinabung volcanic eruption.

The agency chief remarked that floods and landslides had hit 260 districts and municipalities in the country from January 1 to February 25, leaving 46 people dead and 16 others injured.

The natural disasters also forced the evacuation of 1,083,104 people, Rampangilei added.(*)

W Kalimantan Governor launches fire alertness village program
Antara 4 Mar 16;

Ketapang, W Kalimantan, March 4 (ANTARA News) - West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis launched a Fire Alertness Village program in Sungai Kelik village, Nanga Tayap sub-district of Ketapang on Thursday to prevent land and forest fires in the province.

"This is a way to prevent any further hazards due to the haze arising from fires in future by launching a fire alertness village program in Nanga Tayap," Cornelis stated after the launch of the program here on Thursday.

To support its performance, we must build several water reservoirs or canals to supply water to extinguish the fire.

Cornelis suggested that all parties need to preserve and maintain the forests as part of the anticipatory measures to counter the extreme climatic variations.

"Meanwhile, plantation owners are obliged to protect their areas from fire similar to what was done by Sinarmas, so we laud this practice, and it should be followed by the other palm oil plantation owners," Cornelis affirmed.

Meanwhile, CEO of PT Smart Tbk plantation for Kalimantan area Susanto noted that to face the 2016 drought, PT SMART Tbk, a subsidiary of Golden-Agri Resources (GAR), had launched the Fire Alertness Village program for empowering the local communities on ways to prevent fires with the full support of the local governments and other institutions.

Susanto also remarked that as part of the first phase, the program will be implemented in eight villages in Nanga Tayap sub-district, while the program will be carried out in nine other villages in Jambi province in April 2016.

Everyone needs to understand the hazards of land and forest fires, especially for women, children, and the elderly, and therefore, the involvement of the community is crucial as the people can be protected through early detection and fire management by taking immediate action.

"The program is planned to be implemented for a period of three years, which will be supported by information dissemination activities in the community and will be evaluated every year by the local governments and other relevant institutions to ensure its effectiveness as a manifestation of our support to the governments program to make Indonesia free from land and forest fires," Susanto emphasized.

Through the Fire Alertness Village program, the villagers will be trained and provided fire extinguishing tools. Moreover, incentives through the companys Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund will also be given to the village that implemented the best forest fire prevention measures.

As many as 15 villagers from the eight listed villages will be selected and trained as volunteers for the program.

All volunteers will be trained and supported in monitoring fires effectively and delivering information quickly to the response team, either by electronic mail or short messages via mobile phones.

The monitoring of hotspots is also done through the use of drones, and a satellite-based hotspot monitoring system will also used to forward the hotspot data analysis result to every fire alertness village command post.

In addition, monitoring activities will also include the use of participatory mapping techniques, and the communities will be encouraged to actively map out their village boundaries and plan the use of land in their territories.

This map will help people to clearly demarcate the duties and responsibilities in preventing and handling fires at the village and inter-village level, Susanto noted.

The Fire Alertness Village program also offers alternative solutions to plantation owners without the need to set fire to the area, including providing agricultural training in the communal plantation area agreed by the community, using environmentally friendly fertilizers, and improving water management, among others.

Besides launching the Fire Alertness Village program, PT SMART Tbk has also prepared emergency response personnel, more than 20 types of firefighting equipment, and several medical personnel, Susanto noted.

Ketapang sub-district chief Martin Rantan stated that the Ketapang district government was committed to preventing land and forest fires, and hence, each village has been urged to ready fire extinguishing tools using the village allocation fund.

"We will appoint a village team leader, and there are shared concerns that the efforts to prevent forest fires will be more effective in the dry season. Hopefully, in 2016, no more hotspots will be detected in Ketapang with the implementation of the Fire Alertness Village program," Martin added.

Reporting by Andi Lala

Sinar Mas's Smart to Boost Fire Safety in Neighboring Villages
Dion Bisara Jakarta Globe 4 Mar 16;

Jakarta. Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology, or Smart, a palm oil producer controlled by conglomerate Sinar Mas Group, has launched its own community development program to keep residential areas around its plantation fire-free during the dry season.

Under the program, the company will provide residents of eight villages in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, with training, facilities and equipment for extinguishing fires.

"Community engagement is vital because it can prevent fires, detect them early and [train villagers to] respond to land and forest fires quickly,” Susanto Yang, chief executive of Sinar Mas Plantation for West Kalimantan, said in a statement on Thursday (03/03).

Nine more villages in Jambi will join the program in April, he said, adding that residents will also receive assistance from Smart to clear land without burning the vegetation, he said.

Susanto underlined that Smart was committed to grant villages showing success in reducing or eliminating fire with the infrastructure development of their choosing.

Smart is following in the footsteps of similar program implemented by pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings in Riau since 2014.

Sinar Mas Group came under scrutiny for massive forest fires that crippled part of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Singapore with thick haze from July to November last year.

One of the group's companies, Bumi Mekar Hijau, prevailed in a Rp 7.8 trillion ($570 million) lawsuit at the Palembang District Court brought on by Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry, which had accused the company of using slash and burn clearing practices. The government is seeking to appeal against the decision.