The land-based task force has reported that a total of 848 hectares of forest area has been gutted by fires."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, particularly in Riau Province, where fires have burnt 25 thousand hectares of forest and land this year, still require speedy actions.

As forest fires are increasing in the two provinces of Riau in Sumatra and West Kalimantan in Kalimantan, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is taking immediate measures.

"The BNPB took immediate steps after it received information that forest fires were on the rise in the two provinces," BNPBs Head of Data Information Center and Public Relations Sutopo Purwono Nugroho said through an electronic message to ANTARA News on Wednesday.

The Terra and Aqua Satellites had detected 417 hotspots in Riau Province on Monday last week, indicating an increase in widespread wildfires in the province.

According to the BNPB data, 417 hotspots were detected in Riau on Monday (July 21) at 5 a.m. local time last week, while a total of 570 hotspots were detected in Sumatra.

However, data has revealed that the number of hotspots actually have shown a downward trend this week in Riau.

"The number of hotspots on Tuesday had declined from 133 on Monday in Sumatra, of which 85 have been found in Riau Province," Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) Head Said Saqlul Amri told the press.

The hotspots dropped further on Tuesday (July 29). The US NOAA18 satellite operated by Singapore had detected 98 hotspots, of which 37 were in Riau Province, Said Saqlul Amri stated.

The 37 hotspots detected on Wednesday in Riau Province were scattered across several districts and municipalities such as Indragiri Hulu and Pelalawan, where 9 hotspots were found, respectively.

The BPBD has also revealed that the districts of Bengkalis had 7 hotspots; Dumai City 3; Rokan Hulu Siak and Kampar 2, respectively; Rokan Hilir 1; Indragiri Hilir and Kuantan Sengigi 1, respectively.

However, the Terra and Aqua satellites at 5 p.m. local time had recorded only 18 hotspots in Riau Province. Of the 18, eight were found in Pelalawan, 3 each in Kuatan Singingi and Roak Hilir, and 2 in Indragiri Hulu.

The other two hotspots were found in the districts of Kampar and Indragiri Hilir, respectively.

In 2014, forest fires have destroyed 25 thousand hectares of forest and land, which has resulted in the contamination of air over Riau Province.

During the current Idul Fitri holiday celebrations, hotspots have continued to emerge in Riau Province, engulfing at least 848 hectares of forest land.

"The land-based task force has reported that a total of 848 hectares of forest area has been gutted by fires. The fire continues to spread in affected areas, and because many sites are inaccessible, they have not yet been documented," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated on Wednesday.

Therefore, the Riau regional government has not yet lifted the haze alert status in the province, while the joint task forces continue to carry out their tasks.

According to Sutopo, the air task force has also continued to operate helicopters to drop water bombs and to modify the weather to produce artificial rain.

In the meantime, law enforcers have also acted upon suspects related to forest fires.

The Riau police have arrested and named 183 people who had allegedly committed crimes of burning bushes or forests.

A total of 116 suspects have been nabbed while conducting forest crime activities during the January-March period, while 67 others were named as suspects during the period between April 5 and July 10.

"The number of suspects could increase because the on-field team is still on the lookout for criminals responsible for new forest fires," stated spokesman of Riau Police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo.

While police have arrested suspected criminals, Riau Governor Annas Maamun has also called on all district heads and mayors of regions that have suffered from forest fires to take anticipatory steps in response to emerging hotspots.

Besides hotspots in Riau Province, the government is also responding to the forest fire cases in Kalimantan, particularly West Kalimantan Province.

The BNPB has sent a helicopter in anticipation of forest fires in the West Kalimantan Province.

Data show that hotspots are now on the rise in the province. The Terra and Aqua satellites on Tuesday (July 29) had detected 268 hotspots in West Kalimantan.

For this, BNPB Head Syamsul Maarif has ordered to send an MI-8 helicopter to the province.

"Syamsul Maarif, the BNPB head has asked to dispatch an MI-8 helicopter from Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, to Pontianak, West Kalimantan, which will be used to drop water bombs," Sutopo noted in his electronic message to Antara on Wednesday.

In West Kalimantan, 15 hotspots were detected in Bengkayang district, 25 in Kapuas Hulu, 7 in Kayong Utara, 19 in Ketapang, and 15 in Kubu Raya.

Eight hotspots were detected in Landa and Melawi, respectively, while 19 hotspots were detected in Pontianak, 65 in Sambas, 33 in Sanggau, 5 in Sekadau, 2 in Singkawang, and 47 in Sintang.

Reporter: Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Priyambodo RH
Copyright © ANTARA 2014