AntaraJakarta (ANTARA) - The Indonesian authorities have claimed that te number of forest fires had reduced some 85 percent over the past several years.
Thanks to the significant reduction, no neighboring countries had lodged complaint over the past few years as their countries were not free from haze usually exported by wildfires in Indonesia.
Despite that achievement, however, some Rp1 trillion had to be spent for fighting wildfires on peatlands in South Sumatra province last year, Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Board (BNPB) Lt. Gen. Doni Monardo said on March 12, 2019.
In view of the high cost, he felt it was necessary to familiarize the public with the effort to preempt wildfires
It is better to prevent wildfires by familiarizing people nearby on how to tackle fires before they inflict losses worth hundreds of billions of rupiahs, he added.
The Rp1 trillion was spent on preventing smoke from reaching South Sumatra, which hosted the Asian Games in 2018. Monardo believed that It would be better to distribute the funds to local people rather than spent it on fighting wildfires.
Hence, the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry's Forest and Land Fire Control Brigade, Manggala Agni, and stakeholders joining a forest fire task force, is currently focusing on preventive measures against the occurrence of forest fires in Riau Province, which was hit by forest years annually.
After extinguishing wildfires in the province, the ministry and the task force focused on preventive efforts, Raffles B. Panjaitan, the ministry's Director of Forest and Land Fire Control (PKHL), said.
During the January 1 to March 4, 2019 period, NOAA satellites detected a total of 160 hotspots, down 110 hotspots or 42.02 percent from 276 hotspots during the same period of the previous year.
NASA's Terra and Aqua Satellites detected 432 hotspots, with a trust rate above 80 percent, during the January 1 to March4, 2019 period, up 77 hotspots or 21.69 percent from 355 hotspots in the same period of 2018.
A total area measuring 1,890.31 hectares were affected by forest and land fires during the period.
Thousands of residents in Riau Province have suffered from respiratory ailments after being exposed to air pollution caused by land and forest fires in the region.
Riau Province has declared an emergency status for land and forest fire since Feb 19 that will last for eight months.
"The ministry, in cooperation with TNI (Indonesian Defense Forces), Polri (Indonesian Police), the community, and the private sector, has carried out efforts to extinguish the fires in the fields. Hot weather, however, has become one of the triggers of forest fires," he noted.
The task force had carried out various efforts in the ground and air to extinguish forest fires, particularly in Meranti Islands and Rupat Sub-districts in Bengkalis District, and in Dumai, Riau Province.
To prevent a fire, the National Agency for Application and Study of Technology (BPPT) has used a climate modification technology to make artificial rains, in order to make remote areas wet.
BPPT Chairman Hammam Riza remarked that the agency is conducting a rewetting endeavor over dried peatland area which is prone to fire.
He, however, revealed the shortage of helicopters used to sow salt in the air will make it difficult for the agency to make artificial rains on Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands at the same time.
In response to the problem, 10 helicopters and a Cassa aircraft have been deployed to extinguish forest and land fires in Riau Province, Sumatra Island.
The aerial fire-fighting efforts to put out the wildfires were supported by the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry (KLHK), National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI), Indonesian Police (Polri), and local private plantation companies, Edwar Sanger, deputy commander of the Forest Fire Emergency Response Task Force, stated here, Tuesday.
In addition to Sumatra Island, forest and land fires also continued to haunt North Kalimantan, as they have occurred daily in the province over the last several weeks.
The fires began to produce haze, Muhammad Fandi, head of the North Kalimantan disaster mitigation office, confirmed in early March 2019.
Fire-prone areas in the province included hinterland and border areas and those along the Trans-Kalimantan Highway toward Berau District, East Kalimantan.
Haze shrouded Tanjung Selor, Bulungan, as fires reportedly occurred in the border area between Berau and Bulungan.
North Kalimantan Governor Irianto Lambrie has issued an instruction on banning land clearance using fire.
Forest and land fires are a recurrent phenomena in Indonesia, and the government has made all-out efforts to reduce their occurrence.
The mineral and peat fire in 2015 burnt 2.6 million hectares, mostly in the provinces of Riau, South Sumatra, Jambi, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, and Papua, and cost US$16.1 billion as estimated by the World Bank in 2015, according to information on cifor.org.
Fires in Indonesia are caused by humans, both individually or collectively.
President Joko Widodo has committed to reducing fire during his term of office. Government actions have focused on fire suppression along with tackling biophysical and technological issues, such as through canal blocking and application of an early warning system.