Jakarta, Indonesia — The Forestry Ministry has rented two Russian-made helicopters in anticipation of forest fires during the dry season.
The Kamov Ka-32 helicopters belong to South Korean company LG International Corporation and have been hired through an Indonesian air charter company, PT National Utility Helicopter.
Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said Monday the helicopters were rented at a cost of Rp 26 billion (US$2.84 million) for 320 hours of operation.
“We will station one helicopter in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, to fight forest fires on Kalimantan Island and another in Pekanbaru, Riau, for Sumatra Island,” Kaban said while official receiving the two helicopters at Cibubur Camp Ground in East Jakarta, Detik.com news portal reported.
One of the helicopters is painted red and can carry up to 3,000 liters of water in its belly tank, while the other, which is blue, can tote 5,000 liters of water in a bucket tank slung beneath its body.
The minister said his office would monitor forest fires in all of Kalimantan’s provinces, while of Sumatra’s 10 provinces, Jambi, Riau, North and South Sumatra would also be watched.
Kaban said the ministry would hire more helicopters should the situation become worse than expected.
“Hopefully this will prove that Indonesia is serious in fighting forest fires,” Kaban said.
Indonesia has been blamed for haze produced by forest fires during the dry season. The smog has been seen as far away as Thailand, but Malaysia and Singapore usually bare the brunt of its effects, which include serious respiratory illnesses.
Land clearing aggravates the already natural kindling produced by the dry season and is a common cause of forest fires along with lightning strikes.
Ministry records show that in 2000, fire destroyed 3,016 hectares of forest. That number skyrocketed to 14,329 in 2001 and 35,496 in 2002, before dropping to 3,545 in 2003 and 3,343 in 2004.
The Russian twin-engine helicopters are able to carry 13 passengers with two crew. They have a maximum speed of 260 kilometers per hour (kph) and a cruising speed of 240 kph.
Kamov, well known for its attack helicopters, has appointed LG International Corporation to handle its interests in Asia.
Kamov helicopters are known for their co-axial, contra-rotating rotors instead of having a main rotor and a tail rotor.