Government outlines measures against likely forest fires

"First, the Finance Minister and the head of the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) are expected to allocate a special budget for forest fire prevention efforts," Wiranto noted.
Jakarta  (ANTARA News) - Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto has outlined measures covering budget, human resources, and legal enforcement to be undertaken in the fight against forest and plantation fires this year.

"First, the Finance Minister and the head of the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) are expected to allocate a special budget for forest fire prevention efforts," Wiranto noted at the State Palace, here, Monday.

Secondly, the home affairs minister should revise Home Affairs Ministers Regulation No. 21 of 2011 on State Financial Guidance to allow local administrations to disburse budget for forest fire prevention measures at an early stage and not only during the emergency state.

Thirdly, governors, district heads, and mayors should educate the local inhabitants to not set fires while clearing land for farming.

Fourthly, plantation companies must abide by the regulations that ban the setting of fires to clear land.

"Fifth, legal enforcers must closely supervise and sanction any one breaking the regulations," Wiranto affirmed.

On the evaluation of forest fires in 2016, the minister quoted data of the NOAA satellites that the number of hotspots had dropped by 82.14 percent, or 94.58 percent, according to the Terra and Aqua satellites.

The size of peatland and non-peatland areas gutted by fires also decreased by 83.21 percent.

"Last years forest fires did not have an impact on the socioeconomic and political conditions nationally and regionally, unlike those in 2015," he pointed out.

The public has become more aware of the importance of clearing land without using fire, he noted.

Besides this, La Nina natural phenomenon, which prolonged the rainy season in several regions, also helped in stopping forest fires in 2016.

Ministries and institutions coordinated with the local administrations in nine provinces, prone to forest fires, to closely monitor hotspots.

The ministries and institutions, include the environmental affairs and forestry ministry; agriculture ministry; the meteorological, climatology, and geophysics agency; National Aeronautic and Aerospace Agency; National Disaster Mitigation Agency; the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI); and the National Police (Polri).

The TNI, Polri, and other relevant stakeholders have also implemented a capacity building program to help train fire fighters and set up task forces against forest fires in the nine provinces.

Moreover, forest fire control brigades have also been established in 10 forestry-related units in five provinces: South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and Papua.

A total of 15,410 canals in peatland areas, 2,581 ponds, and 516 artesian wells have been built to store water to extinguish forest fires.

Stringent legal enforcement was also implemented, including by revoking the business licenses of three plantation companies, freezing licenses of 16 others, and issuing warnings to 115 companies.

The significant drop in last years forest fires was also due to intensified on-field patrols.

Wiranto said the meteorology agency had forecast that the climate in 2017 would be drier than that in 2016.

Hence, early prevention command posts need to be set up at the central, provincial, district, and rural levels to prevent forest fires, he stated.(*)

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