BNPB spokesperson laments theft of wildfire warning tools

03 March 2019

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INDONESIA – National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho has lamented the theft of a forest and land fire early warning system in South Sumatra, a province prone to wildfires.

On Feb. 28, National Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) education task group head Suwignya Utama said at least five Sipalaga (wildfire early detection systems) had gone missing since 2018, as reported by Antara. Each was valued at around Rp 100 million (US$7,091).

Responding to the news, Sutopo took to his Twitter @Sutopo_PN on Saturday evening to say: “Not only a tsunami early-warning buoy but also forest fire detection units [….], seismographs [and] tsunami warning sirens were stolen. We barely have enough, yet they were stolen.”

He said the theft was a “non-structural problem that is not easily solved, similar to littering”.

Each Sipalaga early-warning unit records the water level and humidity of peat soil as well as rainfall. All of the data recorded is sent to a central monitoring system

The BRG has installed around 142 Sipalaga units in seven provinces with peatland, 21 of which are located in South Sumatra. Suwignya said the theft occurred only in South Sumatra.

South Sumatra is among 16 Indonesian provinces that are prone to forest and land fires ahead of the upcoming El Niño, a climate pattern linked to warming waters in the central and eastern areas of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

El Niño can extend the dry season in Indonesia, which can increase the risk of wildfires.

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