"At the moment, none of the residents is suffering from health problems due to the impact of the smog," Acting Head of the Palangka Raya Health Office, Andjar Hari Purnomo, said here Thursday.
Over these past few days, bush and forest fires have been spotted in certain areas around the city. On July 2, a thin cloud of smog blanketed the city's sky.
His office has taken precautionary measures to anticipate unexpected eventualities by ensuring the readiness of health centers and the availability of medicines, Purnomo said.
As part of the precautionary measures, health workers recently distributed face masks to the city's firefighters, he said.
In order to immediately halt the forest and bush fire, the government has included some elements in the country to handle the fires.
The deployment of BNPB
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) through institutions such as the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police is expected to deploy thousands of officers to reduce forest fires.
The agency would send 1,000 military personnel and 205 police officers to villages in Riau, West Kalimantan and Jambi, provinces that were vulnerable to forest fires, BNPB secretary-general Dody Ruswandi said.
“They will try to educate locals on how to utilize the land so that they do not burn the forest anymore,” Dody told reporters during a press briefing at the BNPB headquarters in Central Jakarta Thursday.
Many locals were involved in burning the forest for economic purposes, the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s Acting Director for Forest and Land Fire Control, Raffles Brotestes Panjaitan, said on the occasion.
“We are trying to change their paradigm and culture of burning forests but it will take much more time and effort,” he said.
Three other provinces, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and South Sumatra were also vulnerable to forest fires because they had a significant amount of peatland, Dodi said.
On Thursday afternoon, fire scorched 20 hectares of peatland in two villages of Nagan Raya District, Aceh Province, Nagan Raya Disaster Mitigation Agency's (BPBD's) Acting Head, Hamidi, stated.
In a bid to prevent the fire from spreading in certain peatland areas in Cot Mue Village in Tadu Raya Sub-district and Kuala Tripa Village in Tripa Makmur Sub-district, BPBD workers had built canal blocks, he revealed.
In South Sumatra, the police had issued an ultimatum to the province's plantation companies and farmers to not use slash-and-burn farming methods.
The military personnel
In addition, Indonesian military personnel have been included in the joint efforts to halt recurrences of land and forest fires in South Sumatra Province by regularly conducting public awareness campaigns in several districts.
The campaigns have been conducted in districts such as Banyuasin and Ogan Komering Ilir, Chief of the 044/Garuda Dempo Military Resort Command, Major Binsar J Simanjuntak, said Wednesday.
Precautionary measures were also taken by monitoring vulnerable areas, Simanjuntak said, speaking to local journalists here.
The same preventive measures have also been taken by the Banyuasin district military command.
Considering this challenging reality, the South Sumatra police has warned plantation companies and farmers in the province to avoid slash-and-burn farming methods.
"The community members and plantation companies found conducting burn farming methods will be punished," the South Sumatra Police Headquarters spokesman, Senior Commissioner Supriadi, said.
The smog does not harm the health of the local people but is a problem for neighboring countries because it potentially threatens their people's health and aviation activities, he said.
The owners of gutted farmlands potentially gutted should remain cautious, Supriadi said. They have been asked to build canal blockings, and prepare water storage facilities and keep fire extinguishers handy.
BPPT for artificial rains
Meanwhile, the Technology Assessment and Application Agency (BPPT) also participated in weather modification technology, better known as artificial rain, to overcome drought and forest and land fires in the Riau region.
"We are using weather modification technology for forest and land fires in Riau," said Head of the BPPT Center for Weather Modification Technology Tri Handoko Seto when contacted by ANTARA here Monday.
The BPPT had also received requests from regions such as South Sumatra to use the same technology to stimulate rain, Seto said.
In addition, the Jakarta administration submitted a request to utilize the technology to overcome air pollution, according to him.
BPPT spends around Rp50 billion annually to use the technology, he noted, adding that when demand increases, BPPT can spend Rp70 billion to Rp80 billion from technology users to make weather modifications.
In addition to using the technology to stimulate the acceleration of the process of rain, BPPT also helps efforts to wet peatlands to reduce the risk of fire.