Efforts to Fight Haze Hit by Weather and Technical Issues, Indonesia Says

Efforts to Fight Haze Hit by Weather and Technical Issues, Indonesia Says

11 August 2011

published by www.thejakartaglobe.com

Indonesia — Indonesia’s disaster management agency wants to induce rain to douse haze-causing fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, but is facing natural, budgetary and equipment constraints, an official said on Thursday.

“As the command-holding agency, we’ve coordinated with other sectors and they have suggested producing human-induced rain [clud seeding] for forest fires in Riau, South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

“However, we have not been able to do it immediately because of certain requirements that have to be met,” he said.

His comments came following Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta’s statement on Wednesday that BNPB would cloud seed within five days.

Sutopo explained that human-induced rain is conducted by injecting clouds with salt, prompting them to absorb more water and consequently produce rain. Heavy rain, Sutopo said, was the only way to extinguish the fires, because the larger parts were on peatlands, where fire could burn for a long time, especially in underground peat seams.

But he added that one requirement for inducing rain was the presence of cumulus clouds, which carry plenty of water and have the appropriate atmospheric dynamics.

“In the dry season, like we are in now, these kinds of clouds are quite rare, especially in those four provinces,” Sutopo said. “We also need to assess the atmosphere conditions, not only locally, but also on a regional scale.

“The other concern is availability of airplanes,” he added. “We have five Casa aircraft, but they can not handle all those areas. So we need to prioritize which areas should go first.”

The government’s Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) would take these concerns into consideration, he said, before proposing a budget for BNPB to implement the program.

“So, we still have to wait for BPPT’s assessment for further actions and budgets,” he said.

Sutopo said the dry season was expected to last until October, and that the humidity required for cumulus clouds would only come between then and January.

He added that in the mean time, forest fires were being handled by firefighters from the Forestry Ministry and local governments.

“In disaster management protocols, it is the local governments’ responsibility to deal with the fires because they own the areas,” he said.

“They need to keep informing the local people and companies to stop burning peatlands and forests.”

This burning season, as of Aug. 7, Riau recorded 2,611 hotspots; West Kalimantan recorded 1,433; South Sumatra recorded 1,035; and Central Kalimantan recorded 950, according to data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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