Borneo, Brunei Darussalam — The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) has forecast below average rainfall until early October 2006 during the current dry season in the southern part of the region.
Therefore there is a possibility for land and forest fires to escalate during this period, the Asean Secretariat said in a press release.
During this current dry season, which started in July, Asean member countries have reported significant increases of hotspots in the region, in particular Sumatra and Borneo. Several parts of the region have reported sporadic periods of moderate to unhealthy air quality. However, the situation has been under control, mainly due to the actions taken by the Asean member countries.
Asean member countries guided by the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution activated bilateral and regional mechanism to facilitate timely exchange of information and offer assistance as necessary to deal with the situation expeditiously.
Indonesia has conducted various activities with regard to the current fire-and-haze situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan such as ground checking of hotspots in Riau, Jambi, West Kalimantan and South Sumatra to suppress the fires immediately, increased public awareness and campaigns by disseminating posters and leaflets, mobilised 10 brigades in 10 provinces comprising 1,560 firefighters, established 247 community fire brigades in Sumatra and Kalimantan comprising 3,610 personnel, and developed demonstration sites for zero-burning in the 10 provinces.
Water bombing and cloud seeding operations were also successfully conducted by Indonesia to suppress fires in Riau, Jambi and West Kalimantan to complement the fire suppression efforts on the ground.
As part of its ongoing enforcement measures, Indonesia has also implemented the ‘status quo land policy’, where activities on land affected by fires are suspended for further investigation.
The policy will be enforced on all areas, i.e. the private sector as well as land occupied by communities. Legal enforcement will be applied equally to corporations and individuals. As many as 20 private companies were suspected of being involved in clearing land using fires are now being investigated. The Indonesian authorities have also arrested several farmers/community groups for their involvement in slash-and-burn activities, which are outlawed.
Cloud seeding operations have been carried out by Malaysia in the state of Sarawak and rain was observed in the areas where such operations were carried out.
Asean also activated, for the first time, the Panel of Asean experts on Fire and Haze Assessment and Coordination to Riau, Sumatra from August 9-11 where significant number of hotspots was observed. The experts from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore were deployed to fire sites in Riau Province to assess the fire-and-haze situation. The experts on Fire and Haze Assessment and Coordination was established by Asean Environment Ministers in October 2004 to undertake rapid assessment of the situation on the ground during potential or impending critical periods of fires and haze, and provide recommendations to facilitate immediate response and effective mobilisation of resources within the region. The panel, based on their assessment, concluded that the land and forest fires have been brought under control by the Indonesian authorities and there was no requirement for outside assistance.
The experts on Fire and Haze Assessment have been put on standby for deployment to the affected areas should the situation warrants.
In addition to Indonesia’s efforts in cloud seeding, Singapore is ready to provide a C-130 aircraft to help Indonesia carry out cloud seeding operations in Sumatra and Malaysia is also willing to consider providing necessary support for cloud seeding operations.