Bringing about a change in the people's mindset is the most important thing in prevention. How to enable them to cultivate the land without burning it
Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA) - A top military officer urged stakeholders involved in Riau’s wildfire mitigation efforts to seriously handle 2020’s land and forest fires to halt the recurrence of 2019's wildfires that caused acute respiratory illness among 275,793 residents.

"We have an opportunity to make better preparations. We must support the central government and do our utmost to fulfill President Joko Widodo's order," Commander of the 031/Wira Bima Regional Military Command Brig. Gen. Mohammad Fadjar stated.

In conversation with journalists on the sidelines of a meeting, held here on Tuesday evening, to discuss varied matters linked to the wildfire mitigation efforts, Fadjar remarked that the president had ordered those in Riau to prevent haze, caused by land and forest fires, from disrupting Indonesia's neighboring countries.

He admitted that the wildfires, gutting various parts of Riau Province last year, had gone beyond the realm of prediction. However, this year, various parties involved in the wildfire mitigation efforts must have a shared commitment to perform better than earlier.

Fadjar expressed optimism that this year's wildfires can be handled better by taking into account the availability of more people and equipment. In 2019, some thousand people, excluding those from companies, and some 300 items of equipment were involved in wildfire mitigation efforts.

This year, almost three thousand people would have been deployed at existing command posts, and at least 954 items of equipment required in the mitigation efforts, he stated.

Last but not the least, precautionary and preventive measures are also necessary. To this end, the mindset and habit of several local residents, who still practice the slash-and-burn methods for clearing their land, must be changed, he pointed out.

"Bringing about a change in the people's mindset is the most important thing in prevention. How to enable them to cultivate the land without burning it," he emphasized.

Riau Governor Syamsuar has issued a land and forest fire emergency preparedness status, made effective from Feb 11 to Oct 31, 2020, as wildfires have sporadically ravaged certain areas of 10 of the 12 districts and cities in the province since early 2020.

The Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) revealed that land and forest fires had gutted some 271 hectares of land in the districts of Siak and Bengkalis as well as Dumai City over these past two months.

Siak District suffers extensively from this early year's wildfires where 98.47 hectares of land had been ravaged, while a total of 60.90 hectares of land had, so far, been gutted by land and forest fires in Bengkalis District and 31.85 hectares in Dumai City, the agency revealed.

Last year, the Riau provincial government had also issued a similar status that was made effective from Feb 19 to October. During 2019, wildfires severely ravaged 75,871 hectares of land, or significantly increased as compared to the conditions in 2017 and 2018.

According to the authorized agencies' reports, Riau suffered from wildfires that gutted 6,866 hectares of land in 2017 and 37,236 hectares of land in 2018.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) noted that the thick haze arising from wildfires, ravaging several districts and cities in Riau last year, had led to at least 275,793 residents in Riau ailing from acute respiratory illness.

During the rainy season, certain parts of Riau are prone to flooding and landslides while during the dry season, wildfires continue to recurrently ravage this province. Related news: Riau prepares for land and forest fires this year

Related news: Riau plans to issue wildfire emergency preparedness status


Translator: FB Anggoro, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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