Hot spots detected as dry season peaks in Indonesia

JAKARTA • Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry has warned of a potential increase in hot spots in several regions, including West Kalimantan, where slash-and-burn practices remain "a local tradition".

The warning came after hot spots were detected in West Kalimantan this month. August is when the dry season is expected to hit its peak.

The ministry's Manggala Agni Fire Brigade has been preparing for a potential increase in forest fires, with teams stationed in disaster-prone areas across the country. "August is the month when Manggala Agni and members of the alert team go on patrol to vulnerable areas," the ministry's director of forest fire control, Mr Raffles B. Panjaitan, said in a statement on Friday.

As the land-clearing period begins, the West Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) reported on Wednesday that 466 hot spots were detected in 11 regencies. But the hot spots cleared up after rain battered the area.

As of Friday, however, the ministry's forest fire monitoring system had detected 78 hot spots across the province.

BPBD head TTA Nyarong said the earlier increase in the number of hot spots was a result of slash-and-burn practices carried out by local farmers.

The agency also found that the hot spots appeared in areas with large populations of traditional farmers. "These hot spots appeared on farmland that contains minerals. The hot spots are not spreading as fast as they would if they were on peatland," he said.

Should a forest fire occur on peatland, he said the BPBD would go the extra mile in mitigating it by using water bombers.

The dry season is also affecting other parts of the country, including in peatland areas in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. Firefighters there have faced problems putting the fires out as the steep and hilly terrain makes it difficult for them to reach the blazes.

The central government, however, is determined to prevent forest fires from spreading on the island of Sumatra, as the Asian Games are being held in Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 12, 2018, with the headline 'Hot spots detected as dry season peaks in Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe