JAKARTA — In Riau, Central Kalimantan, and West Kalimantan, local governments have started actions to prevent land and forest fires and to be prepared for the dry season in the three main provinces which are located on the equator.
According to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), the dry season this year will be drier than normal and this could cause more fires. These three provinces have become the priority areas in the government’s forest fire prevention program.
In late February or March, rainfall will begin to decline. A month should give sufficient enough time to make preparations for a forest fire prevention program.
Kompas news reported, the head of research and development of climatology and air quality at the BMKG, Ardhasena Sopaheluwakan, said in Jakarta on Monday: “The dry weather has begun to hit the east coast of Aceh and North Sumatra, Riau, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.”
The head of public relations at the BMKG, Hary Tirto Djatmiko, said the chance for forest and land fires was small as the rainfall including in Sumatra was still significant. “Nevertheless,” he said, “preparations were absolutely necessary.”
“In February, there is still much rain, although its intensity is not so high. However, the peat soil is more vulnerable,” said Ramlan, the head of weather prediction and early warning at the BMKG.
Riau is the only province that has declared a state of emergency over forest and land fires. Riau has two dry seasons – from February to March and from July to October.
A number of water-bombing helicopters, rented by the Environment and Forestry (LHK) Ministry, have been readied in Pekanbaru, at the Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base.
“If the National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) sends more helicopters to Riau, the Bell 412 helicopter will be operated in West Kalimantan,” said the director of forest and land fire control at the LHK Ministry, Raffles Brotestes Panjaitan.
During the regional disaster coordinating meeting on Monday (30 Jan), the Regional Board for Disaster Management (BPBD) in West Kalimantan has asked regencies in the province, especially those prone to forest and land fires, to prepare for the declaration of a state of an emergency.
“It is in line with the instruction President Joko Widodo made during a coordination meeting at the State Palace,” TTA Nyarong, head of West Kalimantan BPPD said.
President Joko Widodo on 23 Jan has instructed local governments to establish early emergency standby in land and forest fires.
In Central Kalimantan, the local government has not decided when the state of the emergency will be started as it is still raining. However, the coordination between agencies continues in anticipation of the materialization of hot spots.
To handle the land and forest fires, the government has established a special budget through the LHK Ministry and the Finance Ministry. The fund can be accessed at any time by the BNPB.
The director general for budgets at the Finance Ministry, Askolani, said that the government had allocated Rp2 trillion (S$213 million) for disaster relief in the 2017 State Budget. “The same as last year’s allocation,” he said.
The BNPB has urged local governments to immediately declare a state of emergency, after doing so, the relief funds can be transferred for fire prevention operations.
Satellite imagery is used to monitor hot spots. Contacted by Kompas separately, the executive director of the association of Indonesian forest concessionaires (APHI), Purwadi Soeprihanto, said the association had cooperated with an association of forestry experts (Persaki) to integrate their respective early fire detection systems to make fire monitoring more effective.
Forest fire monitoring staff had not only watched areas within the concession boundaries, but also around the concessions. The chairman of an Indonesian palm oil producers association, Supriyono Joko, said that “Some sources of fire were found in areas around the plantations. If not monitored, the fires will spread.”