Indonesia RIAU, INDONESIA: Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) had allocated US$20 million (RM80 million) to procure and equip its fire management department with the latest technology and equipment to prevent and combat fire in Riau.
The proactive measure was taken by APP, which is a subsidiary of diversified conglomerate Sinar Mas, following the recent El-Nino phenomenon and open burning, that leads to haze blanketing the province and its neighbouring countries including Malaysia and Singapore, as well as affecting the company’s operation.
The funding was not only used to procure the latest equipment to track, prevent and combat fire but also used to improve the river system in the province.
Sinar Mas Fire Management corporate chief Steven Sujoto said the improvement was made to ease the process of fire fighting.
The river is also used as the main means to transport wood to the factories.
“Coordination centres have also been set up at the villages (within the concession) in an effort to fight forest fires and open burning.
Teams are put on standby around the clock to avoid unfortunate events.
“The centres would be equipped with equipment ranging from tankers to helicopters used in water bombing, depending on the needs of the respective areas,” he said, adding that the equipment was handed over to more than 500 villages near the concession, which covers about two million hectares, in Indonesia.
The team on duty would conduct patrols three times a day and monitor hotspots in the areas through its current satellite towers.
The company also worked with local firemen and sources expertise from foreign sources such as in Canada to combat forest fires and open burning. Sinar Mas Head of Fire Management Sujika Lusaka said besides monitoring ground activities, personnel in the situation room in Riau also monitor hotspots round the clock via a website.
“Even if the location has a slight chance of catching fire, personnel will be deployed to the area to prevent it from happening.
“Beside putting out fire at areas in the concession, the teams also will assist local firemen in battling fires up to five kilometres out of the concession because it might endanger our location,” he said. Sujika said the equipment owned by the department exceeded government requirements by 180 per cent.
He said the department is in the midst of testing out thermal cameras and geothermal towers to replace the existing satellite system.
“We detected several weaknesses in the satellite system including giving out false alarms, causing the team to expend a lot of energy on the field when there is actually no fire.
“This is because the satellite system detects anything more than 40 degrees Celsius as a hotspot and we would then have to verify everything,” he said, adding that the thermal system is expected to be more effective. Last year, Pekanbaru declared a state of emergency when the province recorded air quality index readings of 1,000 due to the forest fires.
The haze had impacted its neghbouring countries including Malaysia and Singapore.