UNOCHA / GFMC: Indonesia: Fires OCHA Situation Report No. 1 (published by UNOCHA, 16 August 2005):
1. Numerous peat conversion fires, slash-and-burn agriculture fires, and wildfires affecting forests and other vegetation on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have been causing serious haze problems since the beginning of August 2005. In addition to the Riau Province being affected in Indonesia, the haze has also affected areas in Malaysia and Thailand.
2. In Malaysia, the Klang Valley, comprising Kuala Lumpur, the administrative capital Putrajaya, Port Klang and other cities in Malaysia has been affected. Air quality emergencies were declared in various locations of Malaysia but these emergencies have currently been lifted. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat reports that due to changing wind direction and increased rainfall an improvement in the situation occurred and that smoke haze has been transported northwards to the northern parts of Peninsular Malaysia, Penang, Butterworth and Kota Bahru. Haze situation has improved in Kuala Lumpur and the neighbouring areas.
3. According to ASEAN, the situation in Thailand on 14 August 2005 was characterized by smoke blanketing Southern areas of Thailand including Satun, Phatthalung, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Phuket and Songkhla. The Thai Pollution Control Department (PCD) has been monitoring air quality (dust particles measured in micro grams per cubic meters) and reporting to residents of these areas regularly via media outlets and PCD’s website (http://www.pcd.go.th). It is reported that the amount of dust particles in the air was not dangerous. The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department of Thai government (DDPM) has informed provincial authorities in Trang, Satun, Songkhla, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat to adopt smoke-alleviation measures. The DDPM is also handing out masks to residents and urging people with asthma and allergies to stay indoors. The Public Health Ministry has sent 10,000 masks to the affected population.
4. According to the Global Fire Monitoring Centre (GFMC), the peat fires are burning in deep in the peat layers and therefore cannot be suppressed by artificial rain or by water-bombing airplanes. Numerous slash-and-burn agricultural / land clearing fires are set daily and appear to be out of control.
5. Success by dispatched fire-fighting teams would be restricted to control surface fires in some plantations and agricultural crops. Extinguishing of deep-burning peat fires would require special equipment and sufficient time to isolate or flood burning peat layers. According to the GFMC, deep burning of peat layers in regions like in Riau Province may result in inundation of low-altitude coastal regions by seawater. As a consequence valuable and biodiversity-rich land area would be lost. The prevention of fires in these sensitive ecosystems, the observation of the national fire ban and its enforcement therefore should have highest priority (see also https://gfmc.online)
6. The most recent overview, provided by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, on hot spot recapitulation data up to 14 August, is as follows:
Formal reports on the health impact of the haze on populations in those areas are under preparation.
7. In Indonesia, the Indonesia National Coordinating Board for Disaster Management ‘Bakornas’ coordinates attempts at extinguishing the fires using both air and land methods with the Ministry of Forestry, the Technological Research and Development Agency (BPPT), the Ministry of Environment, and Police Office. BPPT will work on seeding the clouds to contain the fires while Ministry of Environment will cooperate with the Police on awareness for the local population.
8. All available fire fighters in Riau Province have been mobilised to suppress the fires. Heavy rain has helped put out some of the fires. A team of investigators has been mobilised to verify the hotspots and collect evidence for law enforcement purposes. The team reported that most fires were set by farmers to clear the land. The Head of Bapeldalda (Provincial Environmental Impact Control Board) in Riau, reported that hundreds of fire fighters with military and police personnel are presently working to locally extinguish the fires. In Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Bapeldalda distributed 2,000 free masks to the affected communities in Siantan area.
9. In a bilateral meeting between Indonesia and Malaysia on 11 August in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia agreed to accept Malaysia’s offer of assistance, particularly for cloud seeding over Sumatra and technical assistance on the use of non-burning techniques for land clearing. The Indonesian Government is discussing how the assistance could be implemented with agencies and concerned local governments (North Sumatra and Riau Provinces). Malaysia’s assistance comprises 100 firemen and 2 media officers and has been dispatched to Pekan Baru, Riau. The team is equipped with 9 transports means, fire fighting equipment and personal protective gear. The team is expected to be deployed for between 7 and 14 days.
10. A Special Meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials held in Kuala Lumpur on 13 August discussed the fire and haze situation. Apart from Malaysia, which has made earlier offers of assistance, Singapore and Thailand also indicated their readiness to help Indonesia. ASEAN senior officials requested Indonesia to assess its current needs and specify the type and scope of assistance needed to suppress the fires.
11. Australia is sending a team of up to 12 bushfire experts to Sumatra to help deal with the fires.
12. The Government of Indonesia has not formally requested international assistance so far.
13. This report has been prepared on the basis of information provided by the OCHA Office in Indonesia, Bakornas PBP, Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), ASEAN Haze-online, Global Fire Monitoring Centre, and media reports.
14. OCHA is in close contact with relevant Government Authorities and the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Jakarta and will provide further information as required. The Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit is the focal point in OCHA-Geneva.
15. This situation report, together with further information on other ongoing emergencies is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int.
The latest satellite imagery, captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Terra satellite on 16 August 2005, shows various fires burning in Sumatra and illustrates the smoke plume trajectory from those peat fires.
Although it is sometimes difficult to distinguish smoke from clouds, the infrared-enhanced view can penetrate the smoke in places. In this type of image, vegetation is bright green, clouds are white or light blue, and smoke becomes almost transparent in many places. Water is dark blue (nearly black).
TERRA 16 August 2005 3:30 hrs UTC (Image courtesy MODIS)
and others displayed on the current and archive website of the GFMC.
The following information is taken from the following websites of the Indonesian Ministry for Forestry and reflects the situation back in the 1990s when land-use fires burned in the same regions of Sumatra, especially in Riau Province in a similar way as they continue in 2005:
I. Monitoring of Smoke-Haze and Active Fires (land-use fires and wildfires)
Regional Smoke-Haze Monitoring
The Meteorological Division of the Singapore National Environment Agency provides a daily updated map showing active fires (land-use fires, wildfires), smoke haze and surface wind directions within the South East Asian region.
Latest map of surface winds and smoke haze/hot spots observed over cloud-free areas. (Source: http://app.nea.gov.sg/cms/htdocs/article.asp?pid=1195)
Latest fire overview map for Borneo: 15 December 2004 (Source: IFFM Fire Maps)
Fire Activity Monitoring in South Sumatra
The South Sumatra Forest Fire Management Project provides regular fire activity maps based on the products of the MODIS Rapid Response System: http://www.ssffmp.or.id/ssffmp/fwi-2.asp?id=2
II. Fire Weather and Fire Danger Monitoring and Early Warning
Regional Fire Weather
The Regional South East Asia Fire Danger Rating System (SEA FDRS) is a joint effort between the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) and the Malaysian Meteorological Service (MMS), supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Daily updated SEA Fire Danger Rating can be downloaded on the following website of MMS, and background information on the project can be found at the SEA FDRS Project website.
Latest example of a SEA FDRS product: The Fire Weather Index (FWI) values shown on the map are numerical ratings of fire intensity. Information from the Initial Spread Index (ISI) and Build Up Index (BUI) is combined to provide a numerical rating of fire intensity. This index is used to indicate the difficulty of fire control based on the head fire intensity and fire fighting capability.
Information on the Indonesian Fire Danger Rating System (Indonesian FDRS) is provided by the Indonesian Bureau of Meteorology and Geophysics (BMG) in Jakarta. The site provides information for fire managers working to prevent and control vegetation fires and smoke in Indonesia. This link points to the English version; a Bahasa Indonesian version can be found there as well: http://www.bmg.go.id:8080/fdrs/index_e.html.
Fire Weather Index (FWI) forecast for this week (left) and the predicted FWI total for next month (right) for the Western Pacific (1-3) and the Pacific Ocean (4-6) regions. The weekly total forecast and the monthly forecasted total refer to 00:00 hrs UTC, which is local noon at dateline (180° longitude). Forecast time is 12:00 hrs noon UTC (Greenwich) corresponding to local evening time in mainland and insular SE Asia. (Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)