Fires destroy land, conservation areas as people pray for rain

Fires destroy land, conservation areas as people pray for rain

24 October 2016

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Indonesia —  Massive land and forest fires in Limapuluh Kota regency, West Sumatra, over the past 20 days have destroyed 300 hectares of area, including 70 hectares of conservation forest.

Of the devastated conservation forest, 40 hectares were found in the Lembah Harau protected area and 30 hectares in the Air Putih Taram conservation area.

“The fire degraded the animal habitat and reduced biodiversity in the conservation areas,” said Zaidi, head of the Region I section with the West Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA).

He said the fire could also lead to a drought that could threaten the people’s water supply.

Local firefighters found it difficult to extinguish the fire due to the hard terrain of the area, forcing them to ask the central government to send a helicopter to ease their work.

By Saturday, the firefighters said they had extinguished the fire entirely following the deployment of the Bell PK-Puv helicopter belonging to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

As a result of the massive forest fire, the tourist site Lembah Harau, which is also popularly known as the “Yosemite National Park of Indonesia” with giant rocks soaring up to 150 meters high, has lost some of its beauty.

The area was named a conservation site in 1926. The status was renewed in 1982. “Harau looks arid now,” said Zaidi, adding that young men used to go rock climbing at the site.

He also expressed the hope that the fire would not influence the animals in the forest, known as a habitat for golden cats and gibbons.

He added that based on the procedure of handling conservation areas, no reforestation program would be conducted in the burned conservation forests.

“We will continue monitoring the area to make sure that the plants grow naturally,” said Zaidi, adding that the forest was predicted to recover in two to three years.

He also said the planting of local trees could be undertaken by the monitoring officers while they conducted patrols around particular spots in the conservation forest.

Separately, R. Pagar Alam, the West Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) emergency and logistics division head, said the forest fire in Limapuluh Kota had been completely extinguished.

He said the 20-day fire had affected four districts in the regency, namely Harau, Mungka, Luhak and Kapus Sembilan.

“The big fire spots have been extinguished, but smaller ones, especially those whose locations could not be reached, might be still smoky,” he said.

The fire was alleged to have been triggered by uncontrolled land clearing activities using slash-and-burn methods.

Although heavy rainfall has been pouring over the provincial capital of Padang and its surroundings, Limapuluh Kota and Payakumbuh are still experiencing a prolonged dry season.

This moved the Payakumbuh administration to mobilize thousands of civil servants and students in the region to Poliko Square on Wednesday to participate in a mass Istisqa prayer to ask for rain.

Winters have started approaching the northern region of India that also includes Delhi-NCR along with Punjab and Haryana. Due to this, minimums have also started dropping in many parts of North India including Delhi and NCR. In fact, as per the temperatures recorded on October 15 and October 17, the minimums ofDelhi and NCR went down to 17°C.

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As per experts, an increase in the pollution level normally occurs during the winter months. However, there are a few reasons that could enhance the pollution level in Delhi and the adjoining areas. The very first reason that can be attributed to an increase in pollution level in the national capital is crop fires in the neighboring state ofHaryana andPunjab.

These two states lie in northwest proximity of Delhi and normal pattern of winds during this season is northwesterly. These winds drag the smoke and fine particles of the burnt crop and mix them with Delhi’s atmosphere. Moreover, the temperatures also start dipping, therefore, the air near the earth’s surface tends to condense leading to formation of haze.

Whenever the winds are light or calm, these air pollutants get mixed with the haze or mist and forms a blanket of smoke haze which remains suspended for few hours in the mornings. Thereafter, the haze disappears as the sun rises and temperatures increases during the day.


But as the winter progresses in the month of December and January, the duration of haze, mist or fog gets extended and these pollutants remain suspended in the atmosphere for longer duration of time. Other factors including the smoke emitting from vehicles and factories and dust from construction sites also add to the rising pollution levels.

Sometimes this situation can continue for day’s altogether. However, relief is expected only when a strong Western Disturbance gives rain over the region. It is then that these pollutants settle down for a few days.

Another criterion which reduces the pollution levels is the strong and moderate dry winds from northwest or west which carry away these pollution particles. In a nutshell, it can be said that in October, intensity and duration of pollution remain less though increases in November as winters sets in.

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