Forest Fires Rage in Sumatra, Kalimantan

Forest Fires Rage in Sumatra, Kalimantan

5 October 2007

published by The Jakarta Post


At least 1,370 separate fire hotspots have been detected in Kalimantan over the past week, officials said Thursday. In South Sumatra, 366 hotspots have been recorded in the last week. In Kalimantan, haze from the forest fires has begun to disrupt flights at Syamsuddin Noor Airport in Banjar Baru city in South Kalimantan. So far, there have been no flight cancellations.

“The disruptions mostly happen in the morning but it clears up at noon. But it has disrupted flight,” head of the South Kalimantan Environmental Impact Management Agency, Rahmadi Kurdi, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. He blamed the fires on farmers burning land to clear it for planting. The situation, he said, is exacerbated by a prolonged drought in the area.

“Since there has been no rain in the past month, the fires are hard to control. We are continuing to fight the fires … and some of the hotspots have started to die down,” Rahmadi said.

Head of the Kalimantan Environmental Office, Heru Waluyo, said Thursday the was closely monitoring the situation. He said 137 hotspots had been spotted in South Kalimantan alone, with two new fires in Banjar Baru city, where the airport is located.

“The National Resources Conservation Center is dealing with the forest fires in South Kalimantan. We hope the fires can be extinguished soon,” he said.

In Central Kalimantan, 115 separate fires have been recorded as of Wednesday. Ninety-three hotspots were recorded in West Kalimantan and 49 in East Kalimantan. From Sept. 1 to Oct. 3, a total of 5,108, hotspots have been recorded across Kalimantan. In South Sumatra, satellite images showed 366 hotspots as of Wednesday.

According to the official in charge of forest fires at the South Sumatra Forestry Office, Ahmad Taufik, the hotspots were located in nine regencies across the province. Worst affected is Ogan Komering Ilir regency, with 106 hotspots, followed by Banyuasin with 44 and Muara Enim with 42. He predicted the situation would worsen in the coming days with no rain expected in the area.

Forestry office head Dodi Supriadi said the fire situation in the province was extremely serious. He blamed poor road access for slowing efforts to stop the fires. The office has brought in two helicopters from the Forestry Ministry and two from the National Police to help deal with the fires.

“Most of the hotspots are on private land and were intentionally set at night, making it hard for us to monitor due to limited equipment and personnel,” Dodi said. He said people were burning land to clear it ahead of the planting season.


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