Indonesia — ON THE heels of successfully reducing the number of forest fires last year, the Forestry Ministry said it was optimistic about again reducing outbreaks this year.
Ministry secretary-general Hadi Daryanto said that the number of hot spots in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi continued to decrease because of sustained monitoring and fire fighting efforts. ‘The dry season has been unusually humid since last year,’ he added on Thursday.
Mr Daryanto said the fire fighting programs the ministry established in these regions also contributed to the decrease in the number of forest fires.
The ministry said there were only 9,880 hot spots in 2010, far lower than the annual average rate of 58,000 between 2005 and 2009. A hot spot is defined as a fire covering at least 1ha of land. The ministry has recruited special officers for its fire fighting efforts. However, forest fires continue to be widespread, shedding doubts on the validity of the ministry’s claims.
In February, forest fires scarred large sections of North Sumatra, Jambi and Riau over three days, with fire spreading to peatland areas in Jambi. In July, fires destroyed hundreds of hectares of protected forest over three days on the slopes of Mount Sipiso-Piso, close to the Lake Toba resort area in Tongging village, Merek district, Karo regency, North Sumatra. From January to July, the Dumai Agriculture, Plantation and Forestry Agency reported, 69 forest fires affected almost all of the districts in Dumai, Riau.
Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) head of forest fire management Hariri Dedi said the current dry season continued to produce forest fires. ‘July to September marks the dry season. There is a large chance that the number of hot spots and forest fires could increase,’ Mr Hariri said. He said the announcement of a decrease in the number of hot spots and forest fires by the Forestry Ministry was premature.