Indonesia: Regional Initiatives in Fire and Smoke Management and Policy Development (IFFN No. 18)

Indonesian and Regional Initiatives
in Fire and Smoke Management and Policy Development

(IFFN No. 18 – January 1998, p. 33-36)

As a consequence of the smog episode of 1991 in South East Asia which was mainly caused by fires burning on the Indonesian archipelago, the Government of Indonesia called for international cooperation to support national fire management capabilities. In June 1992 an international conference on Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management was held in Bandung. Participants were national agencies involved in fire management and the international community, represented by national and international development organizations and potential donors. The objective of the conference was to develop the framework for an internationally concerted action plan on Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management for Indonesia. In this program all partners involved share expertise and resources in fire management.

The implementation of the Bandung Strategy is underway. In 1994 a bilateral Indonesian-German project Integrated Forest Fire Management (IFFM) became operational. The project is aimed at building up fire management capabilities in the Province of East Kalimantan. At the moment project duration is scheduled 1994-2000 (see contribution by L.Schindler, this issue). The IFFM system includes community-based fire management approaches. IFFM aims to produce a model for other Indonesian provinces.

After 1994 several other foreign assisted projects were established, e.g.:

  • Fire management projects supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Sumatra (Jambi) and West Kalimantan
  • The European Union “Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project” (FFPCP) in Sumatra (Palembang);
  • The UK Overseas Development Administration (ODA) “Tropical Forest Management Project” with a fire management support component in Central Kalimantan;
  • The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) at the central level (Ministry of Forestry; meanwhile terminated); and
  • The fire management training courses conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US AID (inter-project).

In 1995 legal provisions were made to establish a National Coordination Team on Forest and Land and Fire Management under the Ministry for Environment (executed by the Environmental Impact Management Agency BAPEDAL) for coordinating fire and atmosphere pollution management measures at a national level in case of large fire and smog disasters (see contribution by N.Makarim et al., this volume of IFFN). This coordination body was also active in 1996 in public awareness campaigns. Also in 1995, the Ministry of Forestry was designated to establish their national and provincial PUSDAL fire coordination committees.

The development of National Guidelines on Protection of Forests Against Fire is a project sponsored by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) with a present budget of ca. 1 million US-$. The guidelines were finalized after the inputs of the International Workshop (Bogor, 8-9 December 1997; see workshop report in this issue of IFFN). This project follows the development of the ITTO Guidelines on Fire Management in Tropical Forests which were designed to address the global problem of fires in the tropical zone (see ITTO Workshop Report, this volume).

All these ambitious projects, initiated in the first half of the 1990s, had only a limited impact on the overall fire and smog situation during the 1997 episode. In the province of East Kalimantan the institutional approach of the GTZ-assisted IFFM Project obviously had strong impacts on the provincial government. The integration of IFFM into structures of the Ministry of Forestry (Kanwil) and the provincial Forest Service (Dinas) provided direct access to the governor and the provincial PUSDAL Committee in which all agencies concerned with fire and smoke issues make joint decisions. The use of the operational Early Warning System (Fire Danger Rating System), has proven to give realistic and meaningful assessments of the build-up of fire danger during the last two years. The provincial government was alerted in early August and immediately took the necessary steps to reduce burning by concessionaires and villagers. Most important was that, on the one hand, the foreign-assisted projects had begun to create structures in the line organisation of the provincial forest service Dinas (top-down development of lines of responsibilities and command). On the other hand, the IFFM project – like the EU- and JICA-assisted projects in Sumatera – have a distinct grassroot-level (community-based, participatory) approach by involving villagers in the fire prevention program. Furthermore, IFFM assists fire users by providing extension service. In the long run it will be necessary to establish a burning permit system in which the provincial fire management service will not only ensure law enforcement of no-burn orders, but also assist farmers and concessions to apply prescribed fire while minimizing undesired environmental damages.

In 1995 the government of Indonesia took first measures to abandon the use of fire in land clearing activities by issuing a decree which banned the use of fire in converting forests to Hutan Tanaman Industri (HTI). In December 1997 another ban on the use of fire in forest conversion and slash-and-burn was imposed by the government of Indonesia.

The search for alternatives to forest conversion burning and traditional slash-and-burn agriculture must receive high priority. Until 1997 only a few cases are known in which HTI enterprises developed conversion methods without involving fire. An interesting example is a system developed by Pt. Adindo Hutani for its conversion program in East Kalimantan (Tarakan). The non-fire conversion procedure involves a three-step mechanical treatment of non-commercial wood/plant biomass, the extraction of commercial timber and mechanical site preparation. Research projects are underway within the CIFOR-supported international program Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn. Little research and development has been devoted to utilize woody biomass for chip or briquette production and to explore potential markets.

Projects initiated during and after the fire/smoke episode of 1997

In response to the regional smog situation in 1997 a series of immediate measures and medium- to long-term projects were initiated.

Disaster Response

The immediate response of donor countries and international organisations to assist Indonesia in overcoming the effects of fire, smoke, drought, and famine during the 1997 ENSO drought was overwhelming (see report of the United Nations Disaster Assistance Commission [UNDAC] in this issue).

Science and Technology

In November 1997 the Government of Indonesia convened the International Conference on Science and Technology for the Assessment of Global Environmental Change and its Impacts on the Indonesian Maritime Continent in Jakarta. The conference resulted in the recommendation for a national action plan in research and technology development, calling for increasing international research cooperation, and recommending the establishment of a multinational research centre to serve the countries within the region for climate prediction, crop estimation, and disaster mitigation. This institute is being established at present as the Indonesian Research Institute for Climate, Environment and Society (ENRICES) under the founding initiative of the Indonesian Ministry for Research and Technology (BPPT).

New Projects and Inter-Project Coordination

Following discussions with senior government officials in Jakarta and Manila, regarding the fire and smoke situation in Indonesia, assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was requested. At present, an Advisory Technical Assistance “Planning for Fire Prevention and Drought Management and Mitigation of their Impacts” is being prepared by ADB. Under the coordination of BAPPENAS (executing agency) the program will be implemented through the Environmental Impact Management Agency (BAPEDAL) during a lifetime of 8 months starting in early 1998. The total budget (including financing by the Indonesian government, in kind) will be 1.2 million $US.

The initiative of the Consultative Group on Indonesian Forestry (CGIF), under the GTZ-supported program “Strengthening the Management Capabilities of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry”, restored the lost momentum of cooperation between the national agencies and foreign-assisted projects in fire management. On 12 December 1997 the CGIF convened a “Special Session on Land and Forest Fires” in which the current situation was analyzed. The objective of CGIF activities is the strengthening of inter- and intra-agency/project collaboration within Indonesia. Further discussion of national strategies will be supported by Tim Kecil on Fire Management (see CGIF report by G.Dieterle, this volume of IFFN).

Regional Initiatives on “Transboundary Haze Pollution”

The regional smog events of 1991 and 1994 triggered a series of regional measures towards cooperation in fire and smoke management. In 1992 and 1995 regional workshops on Transboundary Haze Pollution were held in Balikpapan (Indonesia) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). This was followed by the establishment of a Haze Technical Task Force during the Sixth Meeting of the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN) (September 1995). The task force is chaired by Indonesia and comprises senior officials from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The objectives of the work of the task force is to operationalize and implement the measures recommended in the ASEAN Cooperation Plan on Transboundary Pollution relating to atmospheric pollution, including particularly the problem of fire and smoke.

On 12 December 1997 Malaysia and Indonesia signed a bilateral memorandum of understanding allowing the two countries to work together to tackle the haze problem and manage any other form of disasters that may occur. On 20 December 1997 the ASOEN Task Force on Haze finalized the Regional Haze Action Plan.

In December 1996 the ASEAN Institute of Forest Management (AIFM) convened the “Conference on Transboundary Pollution and its Impacts on the Sustainability of Tropical Forests” in Kuala Lumpur. At that conference, the ASEAN Fire Forum was formed which came up with a proposal for an ASEAN-wide program in fire management and research. The Fire Forum discussed, among others, the AIFM Plan of Action Regarding Forest Fire Management. That proposal dated back to 1995 and aimed to fulfil the actions required by the ASEAN Cooperation Plan. Although Canada had offered ca. 50 percent of the total costs for preparing the action plan, the proposal was not accepted by ASEAN. The plan was based on an attempt to survey the forest fire situation in the ASEAN region. In late 1997 a part of the original core of the AIFM Action Plan was again submitted to the ASEAN nations. The proposed Fire Danger Rating System for Indonesia: An Adaptation of the Canadian Fire Behavior Prediction System is now being prepared on a cost-share basis as a joint effort between the Canadian Forest Service and ASEAN member countries. At the stage of writing this report, Indonesia (BPPT) and Malaysia (Primary Industries) have agreed to contribute to the programme while negotiations with Singapore and Brunei are underway.

In response to the ASEAN Environmental Ministers’ Jakarta Declaration on Environment and Development on 18 September 1997, the Asian Development Bank is considering the provision of funds through a Regional Technical Assistance (RETA) grant to assist ASEAN in strengthening cooperation among fire- and smoke-affected ASEAN countries in the following areas: (i) catalyzing fire and haze prevention measures, (ii) improving fire and haze prediction and monitoring, (iii) improving fire management, (iv) human resources development, (v) economic and scientific studies, and (vi) institutional support and information management.

Research Initiatives

Fire research in Indonesia and the mainland of South East Asia in the 1990s largely concentrated on fire effects on ecosystem properties and ecosystem stability. Much of this research has been synoptically analyzed, including the summary of the inventory of the fire episode of 1982-83.

The state of research provides a tremendous knowledge of basic fire impacts. However, it reveals yet lacking research on long-term observations of fire-affected ecosystems. While many of the publications contain information on fire causes, there are only a few in-depth studies available on the socio-economic and cultural aspects of managing the fire problem. The forest fire management system in Thailand has its strong base on a fire prevention approach which is being realized by a close cooperation with the local population. The same refers to the IFFM approach in Indonesia. A basic study on the socio-economic and cultural background of forest fires in the pine forests of the Philippines was conducted in the late 1980s and reveals the usefulness of such surveys for further management planning (see contribution from the Philippines, this volume). Despite initial efforts it must be stated that there is a tremendous gap of expertise and available methodologies of socio-economic and cultural approaches in integrating people into operational fire management systems.

Proposed post-1997 Research Programs

The main driver of public and political concern for the 1997 El Niño drought was the transboundary pollution caused by the smoke from vegetation fires. A systematic, quantitative and qualitative regional research approach is still missing. This gap could be filled by the research activities proposed at the Jakarta Conference in November 1997. The first program which has been proposed in 1994 (but not yet operational) is the South East Asian Fire Experiment (SEAFIRE). SEAFIRE is a planned research activity under the scheme of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). The International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Project is a core project of IGBP. One of the activities of IGAC Focus 2 (Natural Variability and Anthropogenic Perturbations of the Tropical Atmospheric Chemistry) investigates the impact of biomass burning on the atmosphere and biosphere (Biomass Burning Experiment [BIBEX]). SEAFIRE will establish the fire research component within the Integrated SARCS/IGBP/IHDP/WCRP Study “Human Driving Forces of Environmental Change in Southeast Asia and the Implications for Sustainable Development”.

SEAFIRE was planned to take place in the late 1990s to investigate the ecological impacts of fire in land use (fires used in forest conversion and shifting cultivation, grassland and seasonally dry [monsoon] forests) and the characteristics and regional and global transport of pyrogenic emissions. Biogenic and marine sources of trace gases and aerosols will be considered. Special emphasis will be placed on inter-annual climate variability (ENSO vs. non-ENSO) and the role of the “Warm Pool” in the global distribution of fire products.

It is intended that the implementation of SEAFIRE begin in 1998-99 with a combined ground- and aircraft-based campaign and evaluation of remote sensed data. Any further progress in SEAFIRE planning will be published in the International Forest Fire News and through the SEAFIRE Web Site:

The Program to Address ASEAN Regional Transboundary Smoke (PARTS) is in response to the needs and assistance requested by the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology, Sub-Committee on Meteorology and Geophysics (ASCMG). At ASCMG’s 18th meeting (Bangkok, 1995), it was agreed to initiate a project on transboundary air pollution. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in conjunction with the goals of its Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) program, in 1996 reviewed and evaluated National Meteorological and Hydrometeorological Services’ (NMHS) capabilities in detecting, monitoring and predicting the long-range transport of atmospheric pollution. Subsequently, WMO designed PARTS to improve regional capabilities in satellite usage, modelling long-range transport of smoke, haze, and other pollutants, and to design and implement a monitoring strategy for the region. WMO is currently considering to convene a conference on “Biosphere Burning” in Jakarta in 1998.


The fire-generated haze problems of 1997 have required that further national Indonesian and ASEAN-wide response strategies be developed. The foreign-assisted fire management projects in Indonesia, the ITTO-supported project “National Guidelines on the Protection of Forests Against Fire”, in conjunction with the CGIF initiative, and the envisaged ADB-supported Regional Technical Assistance Project Strengthening ASEAN’s Capabilities to Mitigate Transboundary Atmospheric Pollution will set up a strong national and regional program which builds on and coordinates with other ongoing and planned projects and activities.

From: Johann G. Goldammer
(Editor IFFN)

Country Notes
Projects and Programmes

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