Haze fight Offcials getting ready

Government warns of more forest fires

The Jakarta post

30 May 2003


Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government said on Wednesday forest fires might spread from Riau, West and Central Kalimantan to several provinces in Sumatra andKalimantan as total hot spots now reached 234. The government also urged local administrations in those islands totake necessary measures to anticipate fires which often cause haze in Malaysia and Singapore.Willistra Danny, division head of forest fires detection andevaluation at the Ministry of Forestry said as of Tuesday there were 128 hotspots in Riau, 49 in North Sumatra, 38 in South Sumatra and 21 in Aceh. He, however, said that hot spots in Kalimantan were unrecorded asthe satellite did not pass the island. “Local administrations should now take necessary actions tocontrol forest and bush fires,” Willi said. “It’s quite ridiculous that forest and bush fires occur andthat the central government must send teams to put out the fires.” According to him, the central government should only give earlyforest fire warnings and issue policy. So far, he said the central government had given provincialadministrations warning letters to control forest and bush fires asthe El Nino effect would be still strong after June. “We also call on forest concessionaire holders, plantations andlocal people not to use the slash-and-burn method when clearing theirland,” he said. Routine patrols by forest rangers should also be conductedcontinuously to monitor burning activities in Sumatra and Kalimantan, he said. So far, only five provincial administrations in Sumatra andKalimantan had replied to the central government letters, he added. “Theyinclude South Sumatra, East Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and CentralKalimantan,” Willi said. Last week, the Malaysian Environment Department said thick haze hadreturned to Malaysian skies in a yearly occurrence brought on by dry weather as well as increased fires in the Indonesian island ofSumatra. It reported that satellite images on Tuesday last week detected 49hot spots — areas showing high levels of heat caused by burning — in Sumatra, which were believed to be forest fires.Riau, West and Central Kalimantan have reportedly confirmed thepresence of forest fires in their areas. The Riau Environmental Impact Management Agency (Bapedalda) chiefAhmad Syah has said, “if no actions are taken we will be facing thesame fate as in previous years. The haze that starts covering parts of the province, including the city, will disturb air traffic not only inthe province but also in neighboring countries Singapore and Malaysiaand could cause respiratory problems for locals”. The government has so far taken legal action against severalplantation companies that burned trees when clearing their land. So far, the local administration has fined a Malaysian company PTAdei Plantation US$1.1 million for burning forest areas. 


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