4 Indonesian provinces declare disaster alerts


Forest fires across Indonesia have caused four provinces to declare disaster alerts. Source: Shutterstock

INDONESIA is approaching dry season and its residents are feeling the effects.

South Sumatra, Riau, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan have announced disaster alerts as they are currently the areas worst affected by forest and land fires.

Data shows that it is these regions that take the brunt of the forest fires each year, accounting for nearly 44 percent of all fires in Indonesia since 2001.

For decades, forest and land fires have been an unwelcome annual event in Indonesia. In 2015, the nation saw the worst fires in 20 years due to the El Nino effect. This particular bushfire season wiped out 6.4 million acres of land between June and October.

The fires also create a huge amount of greenhouse gas as they burn off peatlands. This toxic gas is breathed in by millions of people across Southeast Asia.

Often, these fires are started deliberately, either to drive away anybody who is conflicting land ownership and also to prepare the damp land for agricultural purposes. However, these fires are poorly controlled and can very easily get out of hand.

Live data compiled by Global Forest Watch Fires reveals there are currently 3,362 forest or land fires burning across Indonesia. The data also reveals that many of these fires are raging in areas of agricultural concessions and peatlands.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency said the governors of the provinces declared the alerts based on the number of hotspots and on the agency’s recommendation.

“With the disaster alert status, the provinces will have easier access in terms of personnel, logistics, funding, and support from the central government to tackle forest fires,” National Disaster Management Authority spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement on Wednesday.

Recent efforts by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo urged authorities to continue efforts in preventing future fires in order for there to be haze-free Asian Games, which is being hosted by Indonesia.

Widodo said he had also promised the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia that 2018 would be a haze-free year, as reported by Channel News Asia.

According to Global Forest Watch, analyzing recent data can better indicate areas prone to fire and also how to predict them.

Preventing future fires means better organized agriculture farming, prioritizing no-burn and zero-deforestation commitments in provinces with chronic fires and closely monitoring provinces with intense recent burning.

On top of this, efforts should also be focused on restoring places where fires have stripped the land.

However, even with all the preventative measures set out in a plan, the fires still burn through the land, making it difficult to see a summer without haze and disruption to the Asian Games.