Indonesia: Ministry Says It Works Hard to Combat Haze Ahead of Asian Games

Amal Ganesha Jakarta Globe 30 Jul 18;

Jakarta. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has renewed its commitment to combatting forest fires, as the resulting haze could potentially derail next month's Asian Games, co-hosted by Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra.

Raffles Panjaitan, director for land and forest fire control at the ministry, said last week that special teams are dispatched every day to combat haze and urge people to cooperate in preventing it.

One of the 12 significant hot spots on the island assessed on Tuesday (24/07) is located in South Sumatra's Ogan Komering Ilir district, just 72 kilometers from the provincial capital, Palembang.

South Sumatra and Riau are the two provinces on the island most prone to forest fires.

The ministry said in May that air quality in Palembang was good at 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter, compared with the World Health Organization's threshold of 25 micrograms per cubic meter. The reading measures particles in the air that can cause cardiovascular and respiratory disease, as well as cancers.

The measurement in Jakarta meanwhile stands at 35 micrograms per cubic meter, though it is deemed acceptable under the law, which sets the maximum at 65 micrograms per cubic meter.

"We at the ministry are cautious over the issue, and thus we are dispatching our teams in the provinces to extinguish fires on a daily basis," ministry spokesman Djati Witjaksono Hadi told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.

The ministry also confirmed that there are around 50 fire-control stations in South Sumatra tasked with eradicating forest and land fires through various means, including water-bombing aircraft.

"Another thing is that the dry season also doesn't help," Djati said.

According to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), the dry season on the island is expected to continue until September. The closing ceremony of the Asian Games will take place on Sept. 2.

NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites have reported 1,183 hot spots in Indonesia since January.

"Please note that not all the hot spots are fires and not all the fires are forest fires," Djati said.

Why Forest and Land Fire Management This Year Highly Important, According to Moeldoko
Netral News 26 Jul 18;

JAKARTA, NNC - Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko said there are four reasons why the handling of forest and land fires (karhutla) of 2018 is highly important.

According to him, in one month to 2019, Indonesia will face three important events, i.e., the XVIII Asian Games in August, Annual Meeting of World Bank-IMF 2018 in October in Bali, and the democracy fiesta (general election) in April 2019.

On the other hand, neighboring country Malaysia has praised the government's efforts in preventing smoke and forest and land fires in 2017.

The importance of the forest and land fires handling is seen from the attitude of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo who did not want to compromise with the forest and land fires this year.

"If in your area there are fires and unhandled, the rules are still the same, still remember? Dismissal!" said Jokowi in a meeting about Forest and Land Fires at the State Palace, Tuesday (2/6/2018).

Therefore, Moeldoko in 2018 Forest and Land Fires Supervision Preparation Meeting on Wednesday (7/25) at Bina Graha, Jakarta asked local government, Environment Ministry (KLHK), Police (Polri), Military (TNI), National State Agency (BIN), Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), Ministry of Transportation, and related institutions to work hard to solve this problem.

"I ask that we all mobilize the maximum ability and work together to tackle the forest fire," he said.

It is known the meeting aims to strengthen the synergy and improvement of work processes of each ministry and institution.

In its report, the Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya revealed that her ministry conducted direct monitoring in areas often hit by forest and land fires, such as Central Kalimantan, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, and Riau. "From the experience so far, the management of forest and land fire prevention has been more organized," she said.

Meanwhile, the BMKG predicts the peak of this year's dry season will occur in July-September. For weekly periods, BMKG issues daily predictions that apply up to a week ahead.

"There will be seen levels of rainfall, humidity, and wind speed, which can be used to see to what extent the level of hot spots on the ground. If it is already 50 percent, then it is in the category of dangerous and flammable," said Head of BMKG Dwikorita Karnawati.

To prevent the fire spots from spreading, one of the proposed ways is to increase peat moss humidity.

"I suggest an effective artificial rain to be made this week and next week, because there are cloud shipments from the Philippines," she said.

BMKG's proposal becomes important because the observation of the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) in mid-July for two weeks also shows a variation of water surface on peat from < 0.5 m to -1.5 m. The acceptable condition is the water level < 0.5 m. With this condition the peat moisture is still maintained. If the surface > 0.5 to -1.4 m below the peat indicates moisture, she concluded.

"There is no significant problem. I would like to thank all the village officials, village heads, village consultative bodies, as well as the TNI and Police officers who also accompany us all," said the Head of State.