Indonesia — Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan denied that his ministry had got a red report card from the Presidential Working Unit for Development Supervision and Control (UKP4) during the current term of the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono government.
“The fire is of course red, but not the report card,” the minister stated on the sidelines of a meeting with Myanmars Conservation and Forestry Minister, Win Tun, and Singapores Environment and Water Resource Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, here on Monday.
Minister Zulkifli Hasan asserted that the recent forest fires in the Riau province will not have an implication on the red report card as what had been indicated by the forestry ministry.
“The red report card and forest fires are completely unrelated,” Zulkifli claimed.
Earlier, Head of the UKP4 Kuntoro Mangkusubroto remarked that numerous problems, such as those related to technical matters faced in coordinating the fight against forest fires had served as constraints in smoothly running the government, among others.
“Yes, one or two ministries have received red cards,” Kuntoro noted without divulging further details.
However, he referred to the problem of forest fires for which the forestry ministry is answerable.
“One of the most pressing issues is forest fires. This is partly due to the system and also due to something that has been destined to occur,” Kuntoro added.
He also called on the people to be vigilant about the possible emergence of the El Nino phenomenon, which is feared to strike Indonesia.
“We have to be very careful if it hits Indonesia. Our forests and environment in Sumatra will be become severely dry and parched. If it becomes dry, it will pose a problem for us,” he reiterated.
However, he emphasized that the Yudhoyono government had fared quite well overall and had implemented all its programs since 2009.
“It was running well because it has laid the foundation in four years and the system works almost automatically. There is no need to work extra-hard to increase the performance,” he explained.
The El Nino phenomenon is forecast to develop and affect Indonesia between May and October 2014. El Nino-induced drought usually triggers forest and peatland fires in Indonesia.
Forest and land fires occurring in the Riau Province between February and April 2014 caused economic losses worth more than Rp20 trillion, as per data furnished by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).
“It should be kept in mind that once the fires break out, it will be difficult to extinguish them and can cause huge losses,” BNPB Chief Sutopo Purwo Nugroho recently stated here.
The haze disaster triggered by the fires disrupted around 30 percent of the economic activities and caused monetary losses in Riau.
The BNPB had spent around Rp164 billion, or one-third of its budget, to deal with the fires nationally.
The fires also caused environmental damages as more than 21.9 thousand hectares of forest and plantation areas were gutted by the fires.
The haze also affected the health of several residents in Riau and the neighboring provinces, such as in West and North Sumatra.
The largest loss caused by forest and land fires in Indonesia was in 1997, when fires wiped out millions of hectares of forest and plantation areas and caused losses worth US$2.45 billion.