Indonesia's disaster management agency (BNPB) has deployed four helicopters to West Kalimantan province to carry out water bombing operations in areas affected by raging forest fires that have intensified in recent days amid a dry season.
Military personnel, police, the forestry ministry and local residents have also pitched in to put out the fires.
"The peak of the dry season is forecast to last until September, so the threats of forest and plantation fires could rise," BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement distributed to reporters yesterday as the total number of hot spots in Indonesia rose to 239 from more than 170 last week. This is believed to be the highest so far this year.
West Kalimantan currently has the highest number of hot spots as fires spread since last Thursday. As of yesterday morning, as many as 126 hot spots were detected in the province, with Sintang (40) and Kapuas Hulu (36) regencies recording more than half of the total.
Hot spots were also detected in Nusa Tenggara Timur province (42), North Kalimantan (35), East Kalimantan (10), South Kalimantan (5) and Riau (1), among others.
Dr Sutopo said the teams working on the ground face several challenges. These include the vast areas they have to cover, the difficulty in accessing the location of fires, a lack of water source near the fires and a lack of firefighting equipment.
The low awareness among the villagers of the need to avoid burning land is a problem that the government still has to address, Dr Sutopo added.
NUMBER OF HOT SPOTS DETECTED
Nusa Tenggara Timur
"We have told the people that burning is banned, often made appeals to them, (and) done patrols to remote areas, but the fact is that burning of forest and land is still rampant," he said.