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Indonesia should insist on ponds, canals to better fight forest fires: pilot

Published on Jun 26, 2013 3:10 PM
 
Captain Pilot Sonny Sumarsono poses for The Straits Times outside the cloud seeding, water-bombing control room at the Pekanbaru Air Force Base. The Indonesian government must require plantations to have ponds and canals that could provide water whenever there is any sign of a forest fire, said veteran helicopter pilot Capt Sonny Sumarsono. -- ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

The Indonesian government must require plantations to have ponds and canals that could provide water whenever there is any sign of a forest fire, said veteran helicopter pilot Capt Sonny Sumarsono.

Mr Sonny, 59, said fire patrol is also a must during dry season.

"We can't just do nothing and when fire rages, we panic," said Mr Sonny, who has 38 years of flying experience - 13 years of which were flying helicopters to fight fire in Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

The proposal by the pilot comes as the Indonesian government sends firefighters and equipment into Riau to fight the fires.

There are ponds and canals built by plantation owners amid the palm trees to water the plants, but these tend to slowly dry up during the current dry season, when the threat of burning land is highest.

The poor farmers who cultivate small farms usually do not have ponds or canals on their land.

Some plantations, such as Malaysia's Sime Darby, have fire patrols on their plantations.

Mr Sonny is in Riau from June 23 to June 29, helping the government in its effort to put out forest fires that led to haze that has travelled to neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.

"Prevention is all it takes. If the fire becomes massive like this (in Riau) it is close to impossible to extinguish. The only solution may then have to be heavy rain and lots of praying," Mr Sonny told The Straits Times.

Email: wahyudis@sph.com.sg

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