Indonesia: Forest and Land Fire Management and its Institution in Indonesia (IFFN No. 16 – January 1997)

Forest and Land Fire Management
and its Institution in Indonesia

(IFFN No. 16 – January 1997, p. 12-16)

Introduction: The Complexity of Problems

Forest and land fires occur almost every year in Indonesia. It causes negative impacts on various sectors within the country and abroad, particularly on several neighbouring countries. It also causes ecological damages which are difficult to rehabilitate.

Fire is influenced by environmental factors such as climate, geography, vegetation etc. and human activities particularly land preparation by communities (non-institutional factors) or land preparation for development (institutional factors).

Sources of forest and land fire can be classified into three groups, i.e.:

  • Fire originating from land preparation for agriculture by shifting cultivators and other community groups.
  • Fire originating from land preparation for plantation, transmigration, ranching, etc.
  • Spontaneous fire incidents originating from hot spots in coal seams, eternal fire, lightning, friction and volcanic activities.

These three factors can occur simultaneously and cause multiple starts and rapid expansion of wildfires. The forest fire statistics table (Tab.1) shows that in 1994 large areas were affected by fire in Indonesia, following the most severe fire episode in East Kalimantan that burned 3.6 million ha in 1982-83. These huge fires not only incurred loss for Indonesia, but also created a new issue in the ASEAN region (ASEAN: Association of South East Asian Nations) in the form of transboundary haze pollution. Neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia lodged protests to Indonesia on the haze pollution in their country which resulted from forest and land fires in Indonesia. In response, data on “hot spots” (fire spots) shown by satellite image which indicate fire activities on fire-prone locations in Sumatera and Kalimantan are submitted to the Office of the State Minister of Environment and the Environmental Impact Management Agency (LH and Bapedal) so that concerted actions can be taken to prevent and control fire.

Forest and land fires generally occur during the dry season, however there are also annual fires such as the one in Bukit Suharto Grand Forest Park (Tahura Bukit Suharto), East Kalimantan. One of the sources of fire are the burning coal seams which emit fire even during the rainy season. There are 47 coal seams reaching the surface in Tahura Bukit Suharto, of which 24 are still actively burning. Efforts to control fire from the seams have been conducted, but so far only two have been mechanically controlled, while efforts are still being made to control the rest within the next four years.


Management of forest and land fire is a common responsibility of the community and government with its related agencies. At present it is felt that inter-sectoral coordination is not effective, with each taking actions in the interest of their own respective sectors. To improve coordination of fire management institutions a non-structural institution at the central and local level was established in 1995, as shown in Figure 1.

Central Level:
To improve coordination in forest and land fire management a Coordinating Team was formed through the Decree of the Environment Minister No. Kep-18/MENLH/3/1995 on The Establishment of a National Coordinating Team on Land Fire Management, with the Environment Minister as the Chief of Steering Committee and the Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHPA) of the Forestry Ministry as the Executive Chief. (See also IFFN No.14 – January 1996).

To enable the operation of the Coordinating Team the Environment Minister’s Decree No. Kep-07/MENLH/2/96 on The Establishment of Secretariat of the National Coordinating Team on Land Fire Management, with the Director of Environmental Degradation, Deputy II of Bapedal, as the Chief of the Secretariat.

The National Coordinating Team on Land Fire Management is a non-structural institution with means to compile and coordinate an integrated forest and land fire management programme at the central level, to be disseminated to the Regional Governments as an input to compiling operational work programmes in the field.

Local Level:
To manage fire at the local level, the Pusdalkarhutla (Forest and Land Fire Management Centre) was established based on the Decree of Director General of Forest Protection and Natural Conservation (PHPA) No. 81/Kpts/DJ-VI/1995 on Implementation Guidelines for Forest and Land Fire Management and the circulated letter of the Regional Otonomy Affair Founding (PUOD) Director General No. 354.522/1098/PUOD to provincial governors all over Indonesia. Pusdalkarhutla is mandated through a Provincial Regulation issued by governors. The members of the Pusdalkarhutla consist of all related agencies, including the armed forces (ABRI) in accordance with local situations.

ASEAN Level:
To overcome the air pollution created by haze arising from forest and land fire, a Task Force on Transboundary Haze Pollution at the ASEAN level has been formed. The Chairperson of the Task Force is from Indonesia. The Task Force establishment was decided upon at the ASEAN Senior Official of Environment (ASOEN) meeting on 20-22 September 1995 in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. The scope of this task is to conduct information exchange on fire incidents based on data from each country as well as satellite images. (See report on the ASEAN/AIFM Conference “Transboundary Pollution and the Sustainability of Tropical Forests: Towards Wise Forest Fire Management”, Kuala Lumpur, December 1996, in this issue, pp.54-56.)

Fig.1. Chart of forest and land fire controlresponsibilities in Indonesia
(will be added)

Fig.2. Early fire warning system, Indonesia
(will be added)

Control Measures

To anticipate forest and land fire incidents during the dry season, the National Coordinating Team on Land Fire Management has taken several preventive measures as follows:

Preparedness Assembly:
To enhance the commitment and preparedness of communities, the business sector, as well as government officials at the local level in anticipating the dry season of 1996, the Preparedness Assembly will be held in local areas, following the National Preparedness Assembly on 1 June 1995 in South Sumatera, which was addressed by the President of the Republic Indonesia.

Early Detection System:
An early detection system can be implemented through inter-sectoral coordination and the implementation as well as dissemination of the guidelines. In this context, the Coordinating Team has compiled a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Reporting and Control of Fire with addresses to be contacted in the form of a pocket book. This book has been distributed to the public and related agencies. To operationalise the early control and management of fire an information and communication system has been established through correspondence as well as electronic media between the Secretariat of the National Coordinating Team on Land Fire Management and the Pusdalkarhutla with the aim to prepare management measures at the local level.

This system utilizes communications networks in the country, i.e. the MGA (Meteorological and Geophysics Agency) as data provider for weather forecasting such as temperature, humidity and haze, and LAPAN (National Aerospace Agency) as data provider on hot spots based on satellite image and data from ASEAN countries. All the compiled data is analysed by the Coordinating Team for the identification of fires. The data of fire location must be submitted to Pusdalkarhutla. The diagram of Early Detection System is provided in Figure 2.

Compilation of Estimated Fire Prone Areas:
To support the early detection system for land and forest fire management, the Coordination team compiled a list of forest and land fire prone areas in 1996 for Sumatera and Kalimantan. Fire prone areas are identified based on Land Use maps, Forest Land Use by Concensus maps, Dry Months maps, Rainfall maps, Dry Season monthly (nature of rain) maps for 1996. Fire prone areas are classified into three categories, i.e. Class I, II and III. Class I includes areas which are very vulnerable to fire. This classification is linked to preparation and efforts needed in the field by local governments. For example, Class I areas would need a more complete means and equipment for fire prevention and management than Class II and III areas.

The method used is the GIS (Geographic Information System) program in which five maps are overlapped and given equal weight.

Zero Burning Land Clearance (PLTB):
To prevent fire arising from land clearance by various development sectors, guidelines for the implementation of Zero Burning Land Clearance (PLTB) was issued by the involved sector, to be implemented by land clearing contractors. To ensure the success of PLTB, the Coordinating Team will review alternative technologies in waste utilisation, among others:

  • As raw materials for pulp and paper
  • As raw materials for particle board
  • As materials for organic fertiliser/compost
  • As construction materials
  • As materials for home handicraft industry

Regional Working Meetings

Regional working meetings were held prior to the dry season and aimed at achieving agreement and inter-agency coordination at the local level in managing forest and land fires. The agreement and coordination will have to be operable and implementable at the field level, by Pusdalkarhutla. The working meeting for the Sumatera region was held on 30 April 1996 and for the Kalimantan region on 23 May 1996.

Tab.1. Forest and other land area affected by fires in Indonesia during the period 1984-1994

From: Mr. Nabiel Makarim & Mr. Antung Deddy R
Environmental Impact Management Agency (Bapedal)
Arthaloka Bildg., 6th Floor
Jl.Jenderal Sudirman No.2
Jakarta 10220

Country Notes

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