President calls for thorough handling of forest fires

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo has called for a thorough handling of forest and land fires, including taking preventive steps to avoid their recurrence in future.

"This momentum must be utilized, and we must focus on prevention for the future. Hence, we will conduct a review on several rules, including laws and government regulations as well as governor regulations that permit the burning of forest and peatland areas," he affirmed while opening a limited meeting on handling forest fires at his office here on Wednesday afternoon.

Despite latest reports indicating a drop in the number of fires and rains being experienced in several regions, the president called for continued efforts to handle and prevent forest fires.

"Thank God, according to the latest report I received, the number of fires has dropped significantly in Sumatra. There are still 53 fires in Sumatra and 124 in Kalimantan. The number has dropped considerably because the figure earlier reached more than one thousand," he stated.

One of the efforts to be undertaken to prevent their recurrence in future is to improve the regulations, he added.

"A review will also be conducted on all licenses and concessions, especially those granted to peatland areas, and I have instructed the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to not issue new licenses for peatland exploitation," he remarked.

To ensure effective and continued handling and prevention of forest and peatland fires, the government plans to set up a special task force to deal with it, he emphasized.

"A special measure is needed especially for dealing with peatlands. We will discuss about setting up a special institution, body, or task force through a presidential decree that would move fast. We must ensure that in the next dry season, there will be actions. The efforts will continue even after the onset of the rainy season," he stressed.

Regarding blocking canal development, he affirmed that it would continue to be implemented to restore the peatland areas.

President Widodo called for the involvement of peat experts to ensure the correct handling of peatland areas.

"Yesterday, I received a team of peat experts from the Gajah Mada University. They have given comprehensive inputs, and I have asked the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to continue to involve them. The experts will plan the management of peatland areas in the future. It is clear what we have to do, and this afternoon, we will follow what I have said," he noted.

The meeting was attended by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Luhut Panjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Puan Maharani, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution, Military (TNI) Commander General Gatot Nurmantyo, National Police Chief General Badrodin Haiti, Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya, Minister/State Secretary Pratikno, and Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung.(*)

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