Indonesia — Environment minister Rachmat Witoelar appealed Monday to governors and regents of fire-ravaged areas to stop all burning of forests, to prevent the unbridled spread of forest fires across the country.
Rachmat also urged the governors and regents to revoke all bylaws allowing local farmers to clear farmland through burning.
“I appeal to, and warn, the leaders to prevent forest fires in the country, since I don’t have authority to order them,” he said in Jakarta.
The environment ministry sent letters of warning on Aug. 16 to the governors of North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sulawesi and all the provinces in Kalimantan.
The number of fire hot spots has gone on the decline in the week since the warnings were sent, the ministry says, with no clear reason yet for the decline.
In West Kalimantan, there were 249 hot spots as of Aug. 14, but as of Aug. 23, that number had dropped to 46.
Rachmat said his office would provide financial assistance to local farmers to stop them from burning more land.
“Several other countries, including Australia and Norway, have also pledged to help Indonesia by providing funds to end the clearing of land through burning,” he said.
“The environment ministers of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Brunei Darussalam have also reached an agreement to help Indonesia deal with the forest fires.”
Rahmat added all the help was offered upon Indonesia’s request.
Calls for an end to the burning were also made in Malaysia and Thailand.
Environment ministers from five ASEAN countries met last week in Singapore to discuss transboundary haze from forest fires, which are expected to increase in number this year as the El Ni*o phenomenon takes hold.
The ministerial steering committee was formed to discuss the transboundary haze.
Under the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, countries in the region affected by fires may request assistance from neighbor to combat the fires.
The ministers also agreed to step up enforcement measures and promote public awareness to control forest fires.