Special Session on 1997 Forest Fire Events in the Consultative Group on Indonesian Forestry

Special Session on 1997 Forest FireEvents

in the Consultative Group on Indonesian Forestry

By Gerhard Dieterle, Jakarta


From August to November 1997 some regions in Indonesia, especially the Provinces of South Sumatra, Jambi, Riau, West-, South- and Central Kalimantan have been covered under thick haze from land and forest fires.

Apart from the questions concerning the extent and gravity of forest fires or regarding the impacts on human health, biodiversity or global climates now, after returning to “normality” discussions more and more focus on institutional and organizational aspects of fire prevention and control.

At the occasion of its 8th meeting on 12 December 1997 the Consultative Group on Indonesian Forests dedicated one special session reviewing the fire events and on drawing conclusions for its future program of work.

The CGIF Special Session was attended by more than 60 representatives from the Ministry of Forestry, Environment, BAPEDAL (Environmental Impact Management Agency). BMG (Meteorological and Geophysical Agency, Donor Projects (EU, GTZ, JICA, USAID), Diplomatic Missions, ITTO, National and International Non-Governmental Organizations (WWF), CIFOR and ICRAF, the Bogor Agricultural University

The CGIF Special Session was chaired by the Director General for Forest Protection of the Ministry of Forestry.

The presentations and discussions were centered around four main themes:

  1. Assessment of Land and Forest Fire Situation in 1997 fire period.
  2. Prevention and Management of Forest Fires
  3. Causes of forest fires and the for new policies and strategies.
  4. Conclusion for future program of work of the CGIF.

The CGIF Special Session recognized, that there is a high degree of expertise, knowledge and technical infrastructure available, especially for the analysis and interpretation of satellite images. However, it was felt that the use of these expertise has been far from optimal. Isolated approaches of the different institutions and projects have resulted in overlapping of work, the application of different interpretation methods and thus to considerable differences in the estimation of areas and vegetation types burnt.

In contradiction to former fire episodes it is believed that in 1997 a considerable part of the forest fires have been caused by land clearing operations where vegetation was ignited in order to prepare the area for plantations (palm-oil, pulp-fiber, rubber, and other agri-forestry plantations). In the Meeting, there was a general agreement that the effect of El Nino has aggravated the situation, but that El Nino cannot be blamed to be the cause of forest fire.

The underlying causes leading to destruction of forests and biodiversity through fires are complex and entrenched and in many cases are caused by factors outside the forests. These are the policy, market and institutional signals which favor the clearing forest land through fire. They include undervaluing of forest resources and the overvaluing of the benefits of liquidating forest, they do not permit the reflection of the social and environmental costs of forest use and clearance, they include subsidies for forest conversion, underbracing of forest goods and unbalanced profit seeking. One presentation highlighted the aspect of solving land-tenure use-right problems through the burning of the resource.

With regard to the combating of forest fires efficient and effective measures need an interdisciplinary and inter-sector approach at national and regional levels. This was a clear result of the Meeting. As many causes are outside the direct responsibility of the Ministry of Forestry only an improved cooperation and coordination between all major agencies will lead to an improved situation in the future.

The following important elements for a new forest fire prevention strategy have been discussed and highlighted: Adaptation of laws and regulations, the need for harmonized national system for fire detection with regard to accuracy, timing and geographical coverage, the development of a national fire danger-rating system, the setting-up of an accurate fire statistic which includes qualified ground information as well as an efficient early-warning system based on advanced communication systems. A key aspect for a new forest fire strategy is a thorough analysis of institutional roles and responsibilities. This is regarded to be a prerequisite for improved cooperation and coordination. Also there is a general need for simple and locally-adapted equipment and resources as well for training, education and public awareness programs.

The draft “National Guidelines for Forest Fire Prevention” prepared with support of ITTO through the Bogor Forest Faculty is being regarded as an important basis for concrete action.


Decision of the CGIF Special Session on Forest Fires

In order to address the above listed problems it was decided to set-up under the responsibility of the Director General for Forest Protection in the Ministry of Forestry a CGIF Task Force on Forest and Land Fires. The main purpose of such a Task Force clearly is that all those who are dealing with forest and land fires should bring together their expertise and harmonize their approaches.

The CGIF Meeting concluded on the following draft Terms of Reference for the Task Force which will be discussed in depth during the constituting meeting of the Task Force early this year:






Overall Objective :To contribute to the reduction of forest fires.

Goal : To assist the Director General of Forest Protection and

Nature Conservation to develop a common approach /

strategy through improved cooperation and coordination between all parties and groups involved

in the context of forest fires.



  1. To develop a joint proposal for a standardized fire statistical data collection, covering all Indonesia.
  2. To compare current operational fire management procedures at provincial district, and village levels and evaluate possible harmonization / standardization.
  3. To promote and contribute to the establishment of an easy early warning and fire fighting system in Indonesian.
  4. To compare the current administrative and organizational framework of provincial fire management projects and conclude necessary recommendations for standardization.
  5. To contribute to the harmonization of methods of analyzing and interpretation of satellite images and to develop a system of information management.
  6. To suggest long-term financial planning / mechanism to integrate fire management as an element in sustainable forest management and to promote the provision of sufficient funds in case of fire emergency.
  7. To develop and improve harmonized curricula for training in forest fire management at all levels.
  8. Make suggestions to further set-up and equip fire centers in Indonesia
  9. Develop and coordinate national fire prevention concepts and give recommendation for their implementation in cooperation with villages, NGOs, HPH
  10. Keep develop and coordinate strategies and policies for a community based fire management
  11. Assess and monitor impact of aid projects on the development of fire management in Indonesia.


Method of Work:

  1. To convene periodic meetings of the Task Force (some of them at the location of the projects).
  2. To prepare a draft plan of activities and targets to be obtained to.
  3. To develop a sense of mutual understanding and learning within the Task Force.
  4. Establish a “Newsletter” for Indonesia (distribution through CGIF by hard copy / E-mail to be defined).
  5. Establish a mechanism that non-restricted reports (non-internal) of all projects are distributed to all projects.
  6. To make use of consultants and available expertise if necessary.


Composition of the Task Force :

  • The Task Force will be chaired by the Director of Forest Protection.
  • The Secretariat in the Secretariat of CGIF. The Chairman will coordinate in close cooperation with the FKK / CGIF Secretariat the Task Force activities.
  • The composition of the Task Force will be multidisciplinary and multi-sector.

Members will come from the:

  • Ministry of Forestry.
  • The donor projects on Forest Fire Prevention in the Ministry of Forestry.
  • CIFOR / Universities.
  • NGO’s
  • Resource Persons from other Ministries and Agencies ( Ministry of Agricultural, BMG, Barkonas, Bappedal,etc)
  • According to thematic issues sub groups / tim kecils can be established (remote sensing, strategies / policies, information management)


Dr. Gerhard Dieterle
Team Leader of the Project
“Strengthening of the Management Capacities in the
Indonesian Ministry of Forestry”


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