Indonesia: Burning coal seams threaten East Kalimantan
13 June 2002
Jakarta,13 June 2002 – More than 200 burning seams of coal could threaten huge areas offorest in East Kalimantan province, an environmental official said on Wednesday. “Accordingto our inventory, of the 300 fire spots only 87 have been extinguished. Therest, a total of 213, are still active,” the head of the East KalimantanEnvironmental Impact Management Agency, Kaspul Basran, said as quoted Antara.
Basransaid the fires were all burning in exposed coal seams. With the possible arrivalof the El Nino phenomenon they could lead to forest and ground fires ifextremely dry conditions prevail.
Effortsto extinguish the seams are time-consuming and costly, Basran said, withthe ground having to be excavated first. The extinguishing of the 87 hot spotswas conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Office for Surface Mining.
Basransaid his office had trained 350 local people to anticipate the threat ofwidespread fires during the dry season. Some150 others have also been trained to fight coal seam fires. Burning coal seamshave been a major cause of forest fires in Kalimantan during the dry season.
In1997 and 1998, fires on Kalimantan and Sumatra, which were often started toclear land for cultivation, led to months of choking smoke and haze over theregion.