Indonesia: Special Session on 1997 Forest Fire Events in the Consultative Group on Indonesian Forests (IFFN No. 18 – January 1998)


Special Session on 1997 Forest Fire Events
in the Consultative Group on Indonesian Forests

(IFFN No. 18 – January 1998, p. 46-48)

From August to November 1997 some Regions in Indonesia, especially the Provinces of South Sumatra, Jambi, Riau, West-, South- and Central Kalimantan have been covered under thick haze from land and forest fires. Apart from the questions concerning the extent and gravity of forest fires or regarding its impacts on human health, biodiversity or global climates, now, after returning to “normality”, discussions focus more and more on the institutional and organizational aspects of fire prevention and control.

At its 8th meeting on 12 December 1997 the Consultative Group on Indonesian Forests dedicated one special session to review the fire events and to draw conclusions for its future program of work.

The CGIF Special Session was attended by more than 60 representatives from the Ministries of Forestry, Environment, BAPEDAL (Environmental Impact Management Agency). BMG (Meteorological and Geophysical Agency, Donor Projects (EU, GTZ, JICA, USAID), Diplomatic Missions, ITTO, National and International Non-Governmental Organizations (WWF), CIFOR and ICRAF, the Bogor Agricultural University. The CGIF Special Session was chaired by the Director General for Forest Protection of the Ministry of Forestry. The presentations and discussions were centred around four main themes:

  1. Assessment of the Land and Forest Fire Situation in the 1997 fire period
  2. Prevention and Management of Forest Fires
  3. Causes of forest fires and the need for new policies and strategies
  4. Conclusions for the future work program of the CGIF

The CGIF Special Session recognized that there is considerable expertise, knowledge and technical infrastructure available for fire management generally, and for the analysis and interpretation of satellite images specifically. However, it was felt that the use of this expertise has been far from optimal. Isolated approaches of the different institutions and projects have resulted in the overlapping of work, the application of different interpretation methods, and thus to considerable differences in the estimation of areas and vegetation types burnt.

In contradiction to events of earlier years it is believed that in 1997 a significant percentage of the forest fires was caused by land clearing operations where vegetation was burned in order to prepare the area for plantations (palm-oil, pulp-fibre, rubber, and other agri-forestry plantations). At the meeting, there was a general agreement that the situation was aggravated by El Niño, but that El Niño cannot be blamed directly for the forest fires.

The underlying causes leading to the destruction of forests and biodiversity through fires are complex and entrenched, and in many cases are caused by factors outside the forests. These are the policy, market and institutional signals which encourage the clearing of forest land through fire. They include the undervaluing of forest resources and the overvaluing of the benefits of liquidating the forest, ignoring the reflection of the social and environmental costs of the forest’s use and clearance, the use of subsidies for forest conversion, the underpricing of forest goods, and unbalanced profit seeking. One presentation highlighted the aspect of solving land-tenure and land-use right problems through the burning of the resource.

With regard to the combatting of forest fires using efficient and effective measures, there needs to be an interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach at the national and regional levels. This was a clear result of the meeting. As many causes are outside the direct responsibility of the Ministry of Forestry only an improved cooperation and coordination between all major agencies will lead to an improved situation in the future.

The following important elements for a new forest fire management strategy have been discussed and highlighted: the amendment of existing laws and regulations; the need for a harmonized national system for fire detection and fire reporting; the development of a national fire danger-rating system; the setting-up of an accurate fire data base which includes verified ground information; as well as an efficient early-warning system based on advanced communication systems. A key aspect for a new forest fire management strategy is a thorough analysis of institutional roles and responsibilities. This is an essential prerequisite for improved cooperation and coordination. Also, there is a general need for simple and locally-adapted equipment and resources as well as for training, education and public awareness programs.

The draft “National Guidelines for Forest Fire Prevention” prepared with the support of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) through the Faculty of Forestry, Bogor Agricultural University, is regarded as an important basis for concrete action.


Decision of the CGIF Special Session on Forest Fires

In order to address the above listed problems it was decided that a CGIF Task Force on Forest and Land Fires be set up under the responsibility of the Director General for Forest Protection in the Ministry of Forestry. The main purpose of such a Task Force is that all those who deal with forest and land fires should bring their expertise together and harmonize their approaches. The CGIF Meeting agreed on the following draft “Terms of Reference for the Task Force” which will be discussed in depth during the inaugural meeting of the Task Force early this year.

Draft Terms of Reference for a CGIF Task Force on Forest Fires in the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry

Overall Objective: To reduce the numbers and negative impacts of forest fires.

Goal: To assist the Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation in developing a common approach /strategy through improved cooperation and coordination between all parties and groups involved in the context of forest fires


  • To develop a joint proposal for a standardized fire reporting procedure, covering all Indonesia
  • To compare current operational fire management procedures at the provincial, district and village levels and to evaluate its possible harmonization / standardization
  • To promote and contribute to the establishment of an easy early warning and fire fighting system in Indonesian
  • To compare the current administrative and organizational framework of provincial fire management projects and conclude necessary recommendations for standardization
  • To contribute to the harmonization of methods of analyzing and interpretation of satellite images, and to develop a national system of information management
  • To propose long-term financial planning / mechanism that integrate fire management as an element in sustainable forest management and that ensure the provision of sufficient funds in case of fire emergency
  • To develop and improve harmonized curricula for training in forest fire management at all levels
  • To consider how to introduce a professional attitude to fire management by setting-up and equipping provincial fire command centres in Indonesia, and manning them with full-time professionals
  • Develop and coordinate national fire prevention concepts and give recommendations for their implementation in cooperation with villages, NGOs, HPH
  • To develop and coordinate strategies and policies for a community based fire management
  • Assess and monitor the impact of aid projects on the development of fire management in Indonesia


Method of Work

  • To convene periodic meetings of the Task Force (some of them at the location of the projects)
  • To prepare a draft plan of activities and targets to be achieved
  • To develop a sense of mutual understanding and learning within the Task Force
  • Establish a “Newsletter” for Indonesia (distribution through CGIF by hard copy / E-mail to be defined)
  • Establish a mechanism so that non-restricted reports (non-internal) of all projects are distributed to all projects
  • To make use of consultants and available expertise if necessary


Composition of the Task Force

The Task Force will be chaired by the Director of Forest Protection. The Secretariat is the Secretariat of the CGIF. The Chairman will coordinate Task Force activities in close cooperation with the FKK / CGIF Secretariat. The composition of the Task Force will be multidisciplinary and multisectoral. Members will come from:

  • Ministry of Forestry
  • Donor projects on Forest Fire Prevention in the Ministry of Forestry
  • CIFOR / Universities
  • NGOs
  • Resource Persons from other Ministries and Agencies (Ministry of Agricultural, BMG, Barkonas, Bappedal,etc)

According to thematic issues sub groups / tim kecils can be established (remote sensing, strategies / policies, information management).

Gerhard Dieterle
Team Leader, Project
“Strenghtening of the Management Capacities
in the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry”

Indonesia-German Development Cooperation
Gedung Manggala Wanabakti,
Block VII, 6th Floor, CGIF Office
Jl.Gutot Subroto, Jakarta 10270

Country Notes
Projects and Programmes

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