The highest wildfire risk in the whole of Indonesia’s forest lands is related to cyclic droughts which lead to an increasing flammability of forest ecosystems. The most severe droughts are connected to the “El Niño – Southern Oscillation” (ENSO) event. The shifting of the West Pacific low pressure (that usually brings rain over insular SE Asia) towards the date line is one of the consequences of a complex pattern of sea temperature changes in the Pacific. Thus, if an ENSO occurs, the general weather pattern over Indonesia tends to be characterized by high pressure and little to no precipitation. ENSO events have been recorded in intervals of ca. 5 years and pretty much explain the cyclic drought phenomena in the country. It is assumed that extreme ENSO events (with subsequent very extended, extreme droughts) may occur ca, every 100 years.
The worst ENSO-caused drought was recorded in 1982-83. The year 1982 brought rains much below average amount of rainfall between July and October. Very little rain came in November-December 1982, and an unusual drought continued between January and April 1983.
This second phase of the drought was most critical. Natural untouched forests as well as exploited forests and other vegetation became extremely subjected to drought stress with consequently increased flammability. Fires escaping from slash-and-burn sites and from other fires then affected an area of more than 3.5 million hectares in East Kalimantan alone, totalling ca. 5 million hectares in the whole drought-affected lands of Eastern Borneo (including Sabah and Sarawak). The 1987 ENSO event again brought drought and forest fires, but less area of forests was affected by fire.
Fig.1. Slash burning and shifting agriculture fires are important sources of atmospheric pollution. Smoke management will be an important element of an upcoming fire management strategy in Indonesia.
Nearly ten years after the 1982-83 fires the sky over Southeast Asia was darkened again. An extended inversion layer over the region trapped the smoke which came from a variety of fires in the region, especially from forest conversion fires, escaped slash-and-burn agriculture fires, and other agricultural burnings. In September/October 1991 the smoke layer developed to such an extent that airports in Borneo had to be closed down, and even air traffic safety at the international airport of Singapore was affected although the traffic did not have to be closed down.
These fires of 1991 have drawn serious concern and gained much international attention. Following an appeal of the President of the Republic of Indonesia, international organizations and individual governments expressed their willingness to assist the Indonesian Government in developing and implement a National Integrated Forest Fire Management System.
For this purpose, the National Planning Agency (Bappenas) assisted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) held an International Workshop on Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management, on 17-18 June 1992, in Bandung.
Participants of this workshop were representatives of
Indonesian agencies and organizations, including the private sector, concerned with forest fire management;
International development organizations;
Embassies and their related bilateral development agencies.
The objectives of the Bandung Workshop were:
to provide all parties represented in the workshop with comprehensive information on the present status and problems in the field of forest fire management in Indonesia;
to introduce a framework which can assist to guide and coordinate international assistance;
to provide an opportunity for potential international partners to express their interests and ideas with respect to a cooperation in the development of a functioning Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management System in Indonesia;
to discuss follow-up procedures of this international workshop.
In order to facilitate the process and to increase the efficiency of the International Workshop, important information inputs had been prepared by Indonesian and international experts and other competent sources of information at a Preparatory Workshop which was held on 13-14 February 1992 in Ciloto (West Java).
The predominant results of the preparatory workshop were the elaboration of (1) a comprehensive situation analysis on the present status of forest fire management in Indonesia, and (2) an outline of components and related fields of activities which need to be considered and implemented to fully develop a functioning Integrated Forest Fire Management System suitable for the natural and socio-economic conditions of Indonesia.
Five components and their related fields of activities had been identified:
Legal basis and organization
Fire prevention incentives and disincentives programmes
Based on the components and their related fields of activities, a framework for specifying present and future activities of Indonesian agencies, organizations and the private sector and international partners in integrated forest fire management was developed. This framework in the form of a matrix, which had been made available to all parties invited to the International Workshop, served to
document present activities of Indonesian agencies, organizations and the private sector and international partners (before the International Workshop);
facilitate orientation of potential international partners to preliminarily determining their interests for cooperating in the future development of forest fire management in Indonesia (before and during the International Workshop);
coordinate Indonesian and international contributions to the programme (during and after the International Workshop).
The International Workshop was attended by representatives of various Indonesian agencies, organizations and the private sector and representatives of 10 international organizations and individual countries.
A comprehensive discussion of the situation analysis and the outline/structure of components of a Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management System for Indonesia and their related fields of activities was followed by exchanges of ideas and discussion of international contributions to the fire management sector. Ongoing and planned international contributions as well as indicated fields of interest (possible but not yet committed contributions) were then identified and filled into the matrix of fields of activities.
The results of the discussions and recommendations of the workshop are summarized as follows:
The development of a Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management System for Indonesia is recognized as a field of high priority in order to protect natural, socio-economic and human resources from the detrimental effects of fires.
A basic and most critical task will be to provide the necessary legal and organizational base within the existing structures (Government administration, private sector) in order to strengthen or to create (where not yet available) the fire management capabilities.
International contributions are essential (1) to secure the introduction of fire management methods and technologies as developed in other countries and adapted to the requirements of the Indonesian situation, and (2) to provide the funding necessary to build up expertise and infrastructures that will secure the most time-efficient build-up of fire management capabilities in the most critical areas.
Both the national (Indonesian) and international activities require a high degree of coordination because of the multi-sectoral approach and the multitude of international partners involved.
In order to ensure the efficient realization of the required activities a National Fire Management Coordinating Committee needs to be established as a follow-up step.
Immediately after the International Workshop the National Development and Planning Agency (Bappenas) called a meeting at which a National Fire Management Coordinating Committee was established. The preliminary objectives of the committee, now headed by Mr.Herman Haeruman (Bappenas), are:
to establish a national platform for the development of a Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management System;
to ensure an intersectoral approach in which all Government authorities, other organizations and the private sector will participate;
to coordinate international support for the establishment of the fire management system in order to avoid duplication of activities and investments and to optimize the efficiency of contributions; international partners shall be consulted for coordinating activities; and
to develop the legal and organizational structure of a permanent body, e.g. a National Forest Fire Management Agency, which will ensure the efficiency and future continuity of this national program.
Meanwhile the first programmes conducted in cooperation with various international partners are underway. During the months of July to October 1992 several international missions were conducted to elaborate fire management projects. For the German Agency of Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and under the lead of the Fire Ecology Research Unit (MPIC/Freiburg University) the fire consultants Stewart Pickford and Richard White prepared a comprehensive investment plan for the establishment of a functional fire management organization in East Kalimantan. As an immediate stop-gap measure fire management training of key personnel was conducted through the US Forest Service. The fire management consultant Douglas Bird prepared the necessary planning steps for an FAO project in East Java. The Commission of the European Community intends to support fire management in Sumatra. The United Kingdom is contributing with the establishment of a national radio communication network, a component crucial for the success of this tremendous endeavor.