INDONESIA – Land and forest fires have hit at least seven areas in North Penajam Paser regency in East Kalimantan — the region that is to host part of Indonesia’s new capital — over the past two days, according to local authorities.
“There is a high chance that the fires will keep on burning because we still can’t expect rain to pour down in [the regency] in the near future,” said Nurlaila, the head of the emergency and logistics unit at the North Penajam Paser Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) as quoted by Antara on Thursday.
The first case was reported in neighborhood unit (RT) 8 in Nipah-Nipah subdistrict, while the second one involved fires raging in the forest located behind the North Penajam Paser regency office.
Following the two first cases, five more hot spots were detected in, among others, RT 2 in Sungai Parit subdistrict, an area behind SMK 2 state vocational school in Nenang subdistrict, as well as in RT 6 in Saloloang subdistrict.
“The seven hot spots were detected at different times. The fires apparently started naturally,” Nuraili said, noting that the fire spread quickly because of strong wind.
She called on the public and companies operating in the region to keep an eye on surrounding areas, especially those susceptible to burning, to anticipate more fires.
The country’s future new capital city — which is to replace the heavily populated and polluted Jakarta — is to be constructed in a now-forested area in North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegara regencies in East Kalimantan. The project is expected to cost Rp 466 trillion (US$32.7 billion).
Forest fires are an annual problem in Indonesia but some of the worst occurred last year because of a particularly prolonged dry season. (vla)