OCHA Situation Report No.1 INDONESIA (Sumatra and Kalimantan) Fires and Haze
This report is based on information received from the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinators Office in Jakarta, Indonesia.
1. In May 2006, forest and land fires started to occur and the number of hotspots increased by the beginning of July 2006. According to Ministry of Forestry, there were over 4,000 hotspots in Indonesia, mainly concentrated in Sumatra (Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra provinces) and Kalimantan (Central, East and West) islands during the month of July. Fires mostly happened in abandoned ex-plantation areas and peat lands, and they were difficult to control. Currently, the number of hotspots continues to fluctuate.
2. According to the media, 6,800 hectares of land in Riau Province and 10,000 hectares in Jambi Province have been burnt.
3. As a consequence, serious haze from land and forest fires, have been affecting both local populations as well as neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.
4. Constraints faced by fire fighters on the ground include difficulties in finding sources of water close to burning areas, lack of personnel and appropriate equipment, and lack of access to the burned areas. In some remote location, water trucks cannot get easily closer to the burning areas.
5. According to government officials and environmentalists, forest fires in Indonesia are mostly caused by humans (community people and companies), following slash and burn methods to clear land for plantations.
II. NATIONAL RESPONSE
6. The Governor of Riau Province has activated a 24-hour command post at the Environmental Impact Management Agency (BAPEDALDA) Office to monitor the fire situation in Riau Province. The Government of Riau Province has requested that local communities and other stakeholders halt the practice of open burning. Public outreach campaigns on the impact of haze to health, economy, laws, regulations and penalties on open burning, was conducted in all fire-prone areas of Riau Province. Riaus Health Agency has distributed masks to the public.
7. The Government of South Sumatra, in cooperation with the European Union Forest Fire South Sumatra Management Project (EU-FFSSMP), deployed fire-fighting teams to suppress fires in the fire prone villages located in South Sumatra Province. As part of the community development programme, with the support from the EU-FFSSMP, the Government of South Sumatra also conducted training for trainers on community rapid assessment.
8. The Ministry of Forestry has deployed its Manggala Agni fire brigade to combat the fires in burning areas.
9. The Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) continues to provide information on the weather situation and fire danger information. The Meteorological Service Agency of Indonesia continues to monitor on a daily basis the weather situation.
10. Representatives of the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forestry, Coordinating Ministry for Politics, Law and Security Affairs, Indonesian Military (TNI), and POLRI have undertaken a fly-over to observe burned-down areas and to demarcate the areas into status quo areas. The Government plans to impose the policy of status quo land in fire prone areas located in abandoned areas in Kalimantan and Sumatra.
11. The National Coordinating Board for the Management of Disaster (BAKORNAS PB) convened a coordination meeting on 25 August 2006 to discuss further actions to prevent spreading of hotspots and firespots. Government authorities from various ministries, including Ministry of Forestry, State Ministry of Environment, TNI, Indonesian Police (POLRI), Coordinating Ministry for Politics, Law and Security Affairs, Technological Research and Development Agency attended this meeting and took decisions to put fires off from the ground, by mobilizing available fire fighters from government institutions, and trained local communities to control land fires; fires will be also put off from air by undertaking cloud seeding and water bombing activities in Riau, Jambi (of Sumatra Island), Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan provinces; and by enforcing the law. State Ministry for Environment and Technological Research and Development Agency (BPPT) and the Indonesian Air Force will meet to discuss the technicalities involved in water bombing.
12. The Government has identified seven companies that will undergo investigations, as they seem to be involved in starting fires.
III. INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
13. The ASEAN Panel of Experts on Fire and Haze Assessment and Coordination from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, undertook an assessment in Riau from 9 to 11 August 2006. Upon the completion of this assessment, the team concluded that a regional assistance was not necessary at that stage. However, in the case of possible fire outbreaks in the near future, further mobilization of regional fire fighting resources needs to be considered.
14. The UN RC/HC Office in Jakarta will continue to be in direct contact with pertinent stakeholders to monitor the situation.