Many Indonesian forest fires detected as dry season approaches

Many Indonesian forest fires detected as dry season approaches
AFP file photo
Published: 8:55 AM, August 2, 2017

JAKARTA — Indonesian satellites are detecting hundreds of hotspots from forest and land fires as dry season approaches, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said Tuesday (Aug 1).

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said satellites of the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space detected 176 hotspots on July 27, 277 on July 28, 238 on July 29, and 239 on July 30, mostly in the provinces of West Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara and Aceh.

“During the past four days, forest and land fires in West Kalimantan have spread to several areas with 126 hotspots being detected Sunday morning,” Mr Sutopo said.

Efforts to extinguish the fires continue with four water bombing helicopters deployed, while police, military personnel and local people battle the blazes on the ground.

“The main obstacles in extinguishing the fires are the huge area to take care of, difficult access to the site, limited water sources, dry weather and the lack of public awareness not to do illegal slash-and-burn practices,” Mr Sutopo said.

The peak of the dry season is predicted to arrive in September, raising worries that the number of hotspots will increase.

Since January, the government has declared emergencies in five provinces — Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra all on the island of Sumatra, and West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

Forest and land fires have become an annual problem in Indonesia, particularly between April and October.

In 2015, the worst forest fires in 20 years occurred because of the El Nino weather phenomenon. Fires that year burned 2.6 million hectares of land, caused US$16 billion (S$21.74 billion) in damage, and exposed millions of people in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia and Singapore, to toxic haze. KYODO NEWS