Indonesia: Air-polluting forest fire hotspots in Riau reach 154

Antara 7 Sep 19;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA) - The Pekanbaru meteorology station reported that 448 hotspots were observed throughout Sumatra Island, comprising 154 hotspots in Riau Province’s eight districts on Saturday morning, depleting the air quality in parts of the province.

Of the total figure, 60 were spotted in Pelalawan District, 42 in Indragiri Hulu, 34 in Indragiri Hilir, six in Meranti, five in Kuansing, three in Bengkalis, and two respectively in Kampar and Rokan Hilir, Ahmad Agus Widodo, analyst at the Pekanbaru meteorology station, remarked here on Saturday.

At least 97 of the 154 hotspots had developed into firespots, strongly suggestive of forest fires.

A total of 45 firespots were found in Pelalawan, 25 in Indragiri Hulu, 19 in Indragiri Hilir, one in Kuansing, three in Meranti, and two each in Rokan Hilir and Bengkalis.

The air quality in parts of Riau was considered unhealthy, including in Rokan Hilir and Pekanbaru, where the air quality was also very unhealthy.

Last August, the Pekanbaru City Health Office had reported 7,745 acute respiratory tract infection sufferers in the Riau provincial capital between July and August 2019.

"The figure is based on reports from all public health service posts (Puskesmas) in Pekanbaru City, comprising 3,540 cases recorded in July and 4,205 cases in August," Muhammad Amin, acting chief of the Pekanbaru City Health Office, remarked in Pekanbaru recently.

The increase in the number of acute respiratory tract infection sufferers in the past couple of months is the outcome of the haze arising from land and forest fires in several districts and cities in Riau Province as well as in neighboring provinces.

However, the increase is relatively low, at 900 per month in comparison with over three thousand in August 2018 when no haze was detected, he pointed out.

"In August 2019, the number has already crossed four thousand, thereby translating to the fact that not all those suffering from acute respiratory tract infection were affected only by the haze," he added.

Reporter: Anggi Romadhoni, Fardah
Editor: Rahmad Nasution

Wildfire annihilates West Aceh's 1.5-ha peatland
Antara 7 Sep 19;

Meulaboh, Aceh (ANTARA) - Wildfire scorched through 1.5 hectares (ha) of peatland area in Suak Raya Village, Johan Pahlawan Sub-district, Meulaboh, West Aceh District, Aceh Province.

"The fire was extinguished on Friday morning, but on Saturday morning, the fire resurfaced and spread to a wider area," Mashuri, a local coordinator, remarked on behalf of Dr Mukhtaruddin, head of the West Aceh disaster mitigation office (BPBD), here on Saturday.

Related news: Police detains suspect in Kampar peatland fire

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Fire-fighting efforts were hindered by a shortage of water sources in the affected area and challenging terrain impeding vehicular access to the peatland area.

"Currently, our personnel, with the help of police and military officers, are attempting to put out the blaze," he stated.

Mashuri did not speak of the cause of the wildfire, as he was yet directing efforts to extinguish the fire.

Indonesia has been facing the severe dry season induced by El Nino that triggered drought and forest fires in several provinces this year.

The dry spell has cast a pall over 100 districts and cities in Indonesia’s provinces of Aceh, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, West Nusa Tenggara, and East Nusa Tenggara.

Eight provinces in Indonesia are prone to forest fires, but only six have declared an emergency status for forest fire, Director of Forest Fire Mitigation Raffles B. Panjaitan of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry stated recently.

The six provinces are Riau, with the emergency status declared from Feb 19 to Oct 31, or 255 days; West Kalimantan (from Feb 12 to Dec 31, or 323 days); South Sumatra (March 8-Oct 31, or 237 days); Central Kalimantan (May 28-Aug 26, or 91 days); South Kalimantan (June 1-Oct 31, or 153 days); and Jambi (July 23-Oct 20, or 90 days).

The Indonesian Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry recorded 2,070 hotspots, with a confidence rate at over 80 percent, during the January-July 2019 period, based on monitoring of the Terra and Aqua Modis satellites.

Reporter: T Dedi Iskandar, Fardah
Editor: Rahmad Nasution

Six hotspots observed in North Penajam Paser, East Kalimantan
Antara 5 Sep 19;

Penajam, East Kalimantan (ANTARA) - No less than six hotspots, suggestive of forest fires, were found in North Penajam Paser District, East Kalimantan, the location of Indonesia's next capital city in future.

The hotspots were found in the sub-districts of Penajam, Waru, Babulu, and Sepaku, Tohar, ex-officio head of the North Penajam Paser disaster mitigation office (BPBD), stated here on Thursday.

Data of the local BPBD showed that as of August 2019, some 23 cases were registered of forest fires ravaging a total area of 65 hectares in North Penajam Paser.

He called on local officers and farmers to remain alert to forest fires, as prolonged drought will last until October this year.

Tohar also called on plantation companies and local farmers to stop using fire for land clearance owing to its damaging impacts on the floral and faunal ecosystem.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has announced that parts of the districts of North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegara in East Kalimantan Province will be the location for the country’s new capital expected to be inaugurated in 2024, the year when Jokowi’s second term would come to an end. Jokowi had informed the media on August 26, 2019, that the two districts were selected, as they faced the least risks from natural disasters, including floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, and landslides.

Moreover, they are strategically located in the heart of Indonesia and near Balikpapan and Samarinda that are developed cities. Thus, basic infrastructure and facilities already exist. Furthermore, the government owns 180 thousand hectares of land there.

The government has made assurance that development of the capital city will not harm the environment and pledged that East Kalimantan’s forests would remain intact.

In the meantime, the LAPAN satellite image data showed the presence of 935 hotspots indicating forest fires in West Kalimantan on September 4-5, 2019, a slight dip from 949 hotspots on Sept 3-4.

Head of the Supadio-Pontianak meteorology office Erika Mardiyanti stated here on Thursday morning that the number of hotspots decreased by 14 than that of the previous day.

Of the total figure, 452 hotspots were observed in Ketapang District, surging from 433 on the earlier day.

Reporter: Novi Abdi, Fardah
Editor: Sri Haryati