Govt Warns Provinces Over Annual Forest Fires

Govt Warns Provinces Over Annual Forest Fires

03 April 2010

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By Adianto P. Simamora

Indonesia —    The government has warned local authorities to take preventative measures against expected forest fires that have become an annual threat during dry season. Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta has summoned governors, regents and lawmakers from 10 provinces prone to forest fires as the country prepares to enter the dry season by late April. “We have warned authorities, particularly from six-prone provinces to take action to prevent forest fires,” he told reporters.

The six provinces are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, North Sumatra, Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan. The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency predicted the dry season would to start in late March and May. Indonesia has promised to cut about 20 percent of forest fires hotspots per year to slash the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The 1997 massive forest fires put Indonesia as the world’s third largest CO2 emitter. Gusti said the forest fires had created cross-border issues, with smoke blanketing neighboring countries such as Malaysia almost annually. “Slash and burn farming practices are still commonplace among local farmers clearing land. Local administrations should deal with the ractice to curb the forest fires,” he said.

Hatta claimed that big companies such as plantations had implemented the on-burning land clearance practices. “But what we are worry about is the big companies will utilize local people to clear the land by burning,” he said. Last year, forest fires razed thousand of hectares of forest across Kalimantan and Riau provinces causing air pollution and the repeated closures of airports. Environmental lobbyists have repeatedly criticized the government over its poor enforcement against forest fires.

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