Indonesia declares forest fire emergency

Antara 28 Aug 16;

Banjarmasin, S Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - Indonesias Minister of Forestry and Environment Siti Nurbaya has said the country has been placed under emergency with regards to anticipating and preventing the impact of smoke emanating from forest and land fires.

She made the statement during a visit to the Tanah Laut district in South Kalimantan, adding that her office would keep monitoring forest and land fires in the country.

"In the morning, afternoon and evening, we kept monitoring the situation and as soon as we detected a fire, we immediately acted to put it out. As a result, the number of fires this year has dropped sharply by 70 to 90 percent," she said.

The number of hot spots in Jambi and West Kalimantan has dropped by 90 percent and so have the spots in South Kalimantan and other regions, she added.

However, from July to August, there has been a hike in the number of hot spots, which doubled, especially in Riau and West Kalimantan, to make the fire fighting coordinating team busy.

She said all members of the team from the police, the military, fire fighter agencies and other agencies have been forced to conduct fire fighting in the region three to five days in a row to keep the fires from spreading.

In Riau, she said the team had dropped up to 45 million liters of water to extinguish the fires and in South Sumatra three million liters had been spent and efforts are still continuing to fight fires in West Kalimantan and Jambi.

The number of hot spots has increased, based on the monitoring of the Meteorology, Geophysics and Climatology Agency (BMKG), with the air drought being below 100 millimeters or it has been very dry and the drought in Sumatra and surrounding areas has been below 50 millimeters, indicating that it is very dry and therefore alertness is needed, she said.

It is predicted that a dry season with a drought level below 100 millimeters will last until the middle of September and only at the end of September will it start becoming wet.

"This means all parties must be really alert in case of forest or land fires so that a haze problem does not arise again," she added.

The minister also visited South Kalimantan to check the readiness of forest fire fighting team in Tanah Laut.

Almost all districts and cities in South Kalimantan have set up command posts to deal with possible forest and land fires.(*)

Haze Hits Riau Province Again; Visibility Drops in Some Areas
Tempo 27 Aug 16;

TEMPO.CO, Pekanbaru - Haze due to forest and peat land fires hits Riau province yet again.

As a result, visibility in many parts of the province has dropped to 1,500 meters.

Head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency of Pekanbaru Chapter Sugarin said that the Aqua and Tera satellite has detected found 61 hot spots a number of areas, indicating forest and peat land fires.

"The hotspots were detected on Saturday at 7 am," Sugarin said on Saturday.

Sugarin added that Rokan Hilir distric sees most hotspots as 36 hotspots were detected in the areas, followed by 13 points followed Siak (13 hotspots), Bengkalis (9 hotspots) Rokan Hulu (2 hotspots and Kampar (one hotspot).

The haze has also decreased air quality in some areas.

For the record, forest and peat land fires in Riau have occurred again since last month as hotspots began to be detected in some areas of the province.

To tackle this, Riau Forest Fire Handling Task Force has deployed six water-bombing helicopters to extinguish the fire. The task force has also been doing weather modification techniques and provided artificial rain, while the joint team of Army and the police have been containing the fires fighters on land.


Winds likely to continue blowing haze towards Singapore and Malaysia, says Indonesia
Chandni Vatvani, Channel NewsAsia 27 Aug 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) on Saturday (Aug 27) warned that prevailing winds will likely continue to blow smoke from forest fires in the western Riau province in Sumatra eastwards, towards Singapore and Malaysia.

"Satellite monitoring has shown that currently, there is a thick distribution of smoke in the western province of Riau indicating the presence of land fires over a vast area," the agency said in a statement.

"With the presence and dominance of winds blowing eastwards, there is an indication that the haze will potentially continue to spread to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore."

In its statement, the agency added that land and forests in western Sumatra demonstrated the potential to catch fire easily and the territory would need to be monitored. It said controlling the fires will be "difficult to very difficult, especially in the next five days".

Besides Riau, other territories affected include north Sumatra, Jambi, Aceh, west Sumatra, Bengkulu and parts of south Sumatra. The provinces of western Kalimantan and central Kalimantan could also potentially see an increase in forest fires in the days ahead, according to the statement.

The agency has advised the community to stop burning activities, and urged residents whose provinces are affected by the haze to anticipate and prepare for its impact by wearing masks and staying healthy.

- CNA/ms

Singapore hit again by haze
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 27 Aug 16;

It is happening again: Indonesia’s inability to control forest fires has left the residents of its northern neighbor covered in smoke, an annual occurrence that has often tested relations between the two nations.

Haze from forest and land fires from Riau province blew into Singapore on Friday, triggering a wave of complaints on social media from the city-state’s residents.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) recorded that at 6 p.m. local time the pollutant standards index (PSI) had reached 127, down from 215 at 2 p.m. local time. A PSI above 100 is considered “unhealthy” while anything above 200 is categorized as “very unhealthy”, especially for young children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases.

On Friday, the NEA registered its concerns with its Indonesian counterpart over “additional episodes of deterioration in air quality in Singapore should the fires continue”.

“The NEA urged Indonesia to continue taking the necessary actions to prevent and mitigate the fires during this dry season and asked for an update on the situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan,” the agency said in a statement on Friday.

The air pollution comes from rampant illegal land clearing using fire, which ravages thousands of hectares of forest and quickly spreads a thick smoky haze over the region.

Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said in a statement that forest and land fires had worsened in Riau and that smoke from 67 hot spots in the province had reached Singapore.

In response to this, the government said it had declared states of emergency in six provinces: Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

The emergency status was needed to allow easier access for the BNPB and to allow each regional disaster mitigation agency (BPBD) to mobilize resources.

The BNPB said it had deployed 7,200 air and ground task force personnel to tackle forest fires and land burning. It is also using three water bombing helicopters, two fixed-wing water bombers and one CASA aircraft to induce artificial rain.

The CASA aircraft, loaded with 40 tons of salt, has been used to intensify cloud-seeding in a bid to help stimulate rainfall in Riau. Thousands of canals, water reserves and reservoirs have also been prepared.

“About 21.7 million liters of water has been poured from the sky to extinguish the fires,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Based on data from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), 67 hot spots in the form of forest and land fires were detected in Riau on Friday morning.

Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edward Sanger said the number of hot spots had reduced to 47 by Friday evening.

Rokan Hilir and Bengkalis are the two regencies with the thickest haze. “The land there is dominated by peat, which burns easily, especially during the dry season,” Edward said.

“The forest fires in Riau come and go. It happened recently because rain has not poured down on the city for 15 days,” said Raffles Panjaitan, the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s fire mitigation director.

On Thursday, the National Police announced they had arrested more than 450 suspects in connection with land and forest fires to discourage recalcitrant companies and farmers from clearing land illegally.

National Police chief Tito Karnavian said Indonesia had deployed a very effective strategy to reduce the number of hot spots this year. On Aug. 16 the number of hot spots nationwide was 482, which was down from 14,451 last year.

In 2013, smoky haze from forest fires in Indonesia spread to Singapore, causing Singaporeans to suffer from their worst pollution in 16 years. The three-hour PSI in the country reached a record high of 401 in June that year, surpassing the country’s previously highest level of 226 recorded in 1997.

In 2014, Indonesia agreed to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) in order to expedite the process of preventing and monitoring cross-border smoke pollution. The agreement was also meant to facilitate cooperation with other ASEAN members, including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Brunei Darussalam.

In 2015, Vice President Jusuf Kalla criticized Singapore for complaining about haze and asked the city-state’s citizens to instead be grateful for the clean air they enjoyed during the rest of the year. He argued that Indonesia had repeatedly apologized for the forest fires that lead to haze problems in Singapore and Malaysia. (win).