Indonesia — The delayed arrival of two aircraft had postponed planned weather modification to extinguish land and forest fires in Riau, an official said Monday.
Pekanbarus Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase commander Col. M. Khairil Lubis said the two planes, which had been specially modified for cloud seeding, scheduled to start on March 1 had arrived late due to delayed administrative procedures.
Based on the latest information from the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology [BPPT], the Cassa 212 planes owned by Pelita Air will depart for Pekanbaru today, Khairil said after the launch of the Haze Disaster and Forest Fire Alert Operation at the Riau Governors office.
The Indonesian Air Force will also deploy a CN-295 aircraft, or a Hercules plane for the same purpose, he added.
The cloud formation to the north of Riau is better now than a few weeks ago.
The moment the planes arrive, cloud seeding will begin. The Hercules is able to carry three tons of salt each sortie, while the CN-295 and Cassa can haul two tons and a ton respectively, he said.
For the time being, aerial firefighting relies on water bombing using two helicopters from PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper and Sinarmas Forestry. The aerial firefighting has been ongoing for the past two weeks in Bengkalis, Pelalawan and Meranti Islands regencies, said Khairil.
He pointed out that the Indonesian Military (TNI) had been very supportive of firefighting efforts in Riau.
Besides soldiers, we have also deployed our weaponry, including fighter jets, to support operations. The Hawk 100/200 fighter jets based at Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase have been involved in patrols and photographing hot spots from the air since early February, he said.
On the same occasion, acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi Andi Rachman said rain in a number of regions would not cause the cancelation of the planned cloud seeding.
He said the weather modification operation would be optimized for a month because of the very limited cloud formation. Weather modification would be focused along the eastern coast, especially in locations where hot spots had been detected with a confidence level exceeding 70 percent.
Based on the weather forecast from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency [BMKG], the drought will be severe at the end of March. We will conduct cloud seeding as long as there are still clouds. The clouds will go away in early April, said Andi.
He added the cost of the land and forest firefighting operation this year would be fully funded by the central government, with assistance from the corporate sector.
I hope every stakeholder, including the private sector, will work together to anticipate the recurrent haze issue in Riau to prevent socioeconomic, health and environmental damage. We must strive to ensure the land and forest fires no longer trigger disasters and haze, he said.
Riau Forestry Office head Irwan Efendi said the total area razed by fire had exceeded 200 hectares across a number of regencies and cities since early this year, but none of the razed area had been forest to date.
The burned areas are generally idle land which will be converted into plantations. The worst-hit area this year has been Buruk Bakul village, Bengkalis, where the razed area has a business land use permit but has remained unused until now, said Irwan.