Indonesia — Forest fires have broken out in several places in Riau and Central Java provinces over the past few weeks, as this year’s dry season hots up. In Riau, forest fire hot spots have broken out since last week in nine of the 11 regencies/municipalities across the province, creating haze in the skies over Riau during the past week. The nine regions are Dumai municipality and the regencies of Rokan Hilir, Rokan Hulu, Bengkalis, Siak, Kampar, Indragiri Hulu, Indragiri Hilir and Kuantan Singingi.
Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) office head in Pekanbaru, Blucher Doloksaribu, said Tuesday there were 111 hot spots across Riau on Aug. 1. The figure had increased to 136 two days later. Thanks to extensive firefighting efforts, however, BMG Pekanbaru detected only 78 hot spots as of Tuesday.
But Doloksaribu said fires would continue to occur until mid-August because rainfall was decreasing and temperatures were rising. Temperatures are currently reaching around 34.2 degrees Celsius, which increases the likelihood of forest fires, he said. He therefore reminded local administrations to take necessary steps to deal with the fires to prevent the haze from spreading to the skies of neighboring countries Malaysia and Singapore.
In response to the situation, Riau Governor Wan Abubakar has instructed all affected regencies and municipalities to deal with the fires and keep in touch with the provincial administration for coordination. He also called on all concession holders in the province to act quickly as soon as fire breaks out in their forests and not to depend on government aid in doing so.
Wan also asked his people not to light fires to burn off fields for farming activities.
“Otherwise, we will always receive protests from neighboring countries. This will create a negative image of Riau in particular and Indonesia in general,” Wan said. He therefore called on the police to take severe action against any company or people that failed to extinguish fires as soon as they broke out.
“Field and forest fires will never come to an end unless such stern action is taken,” he said. Head of Riau’s Natural Resources Conservation Office, Rachman Siddik, said fires had occurred in abandoned concession forests, empty fields and forests bordering on horticultural areas.
“Conservation forests so far are secure. Hopefully we will be able to put out the fires within a few days,” Rachman said.
Rachman said he had deployed firefighting teams to deal with the fires in Siak, Bengkalis, Indragiri Hilir, Indragiri Hulu and Dumai. Every region gets two teams comprised of 15 people each.
Meanwhile, in Central Java, state forest company Perum Perhutani Unit I said it had received at least six reports of forest fires from across the province since mid-July. The reports include forest fires in Balapulang, East Pekalongan and Banyumas, and on the slopes of Mount Merapi in Magelang regency, which borders Yogyakarta province. The total area affected by fires is estimated to have reached more than 200 hectares, excluding that on the slopes of Mount Merapi.
Head of the company’s forest security section Kurnia Dewi told The Jakarta Post recently that causes of fires ranged from human carelessness to natural factors.