Posts Tagged ‘South Sumatra’

Four Indonesian provinces, including Riau, declare disaster alerts for forest fires

February 21, 2018

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Smoke rises from a peatland fire in Pekanbaru, Riau on Feb 1, 2018. It is one of 73 detected hot spots causing haze on the island of Sumatra. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA – Four Indonesian provinces – including one that sits at Singapore’s doorstep – are officially on disaster alert after a rising number of hot spots were detected within their boundaries.

Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan provinces have declared disaster alert status, said Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for the country’s disaster management agency (BNPB), in a press statement on Wednesday (Feb 21). All four provinces are located around the equator, with Riau being closest to Singapore.

The disaster alert status means that the national government in Jakarta will be able to step in more easily and with less red tape to deal with raging fires, deploy troops and provide logistics and funds, Dr Sutopo said.

“The number of hot spots has continued to increase. In the past week, the most number of hot spots was found in West Kalimantan province. Pontianak is blanketed by haze,” Dr Sutopo said.

In the past 24 hours through 7am on Wednesday, there was a total of 78 hot spots across Indonesia, according to the Terra and Aqua satellites, based on a confidence level of between 30 per cent and 79 per cent.

West Kalimantan province recorded the highest number at 23 hot spots, followed by West Java at 14, Central Kalimantan with 12, Riau at nine, Riau Islands and Papua each with four, Central Java three, West Papua, East Java and Maluku each with two, and Banka-Belitung Islands, North Maluku and South Sumatra each with one.

 Image result for Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan , Central Kalimantan, indonesia, map

Indonesian provinces located near the equator are now in their first phase of the dry season, which usually runs from early in the year to some time in March. The rainy season then sets in at these provinces in March and lasts till May before another, more intense dry season from June to September.

“Forest and plantation fires usually pick up in the second (June-September) dry season there,” Dr Sutopo said.

The authorities are stepping up their efforts to manage forest and plantation fires. There will be more land and air operations, regular patrols and tighter law enforcement, Dr Sutopo said. Public campaigns against slash-and-burn tactics and on public health are also being ramped up, he added.

Indonesia is deploying joint forces from BNPB’s provincial branches, the armed forces, forestry agency fire fighters, city fire fighters, and civil security officers, among others, Dr Sutopo added.

BNPB has also kept aircraft ready for cloud seeding and helicopters for water bombing.


Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1.
Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1, 2015. Photo: Getty Images


Singapore Central Business District, or CBD skyline is covered with a thick haze.


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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo



282 hot spots detected across Indonesia

August 6, 2017

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Indonesia — Fire-fighting operations in South Sumatra, one of the five provinces currently in a state of emergency. Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB)

JAKARTA – Indonesian satellites on Sunday (Aug 6) morning picked up 282 hot spots – believed to be the highest number across the country this year – as the dry season continues.

The worst hit province was West Kalimantan, where more than half of the hot spots were detected, said National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman, Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, as he released the figures yesterday (Aug 6) evening.

Five districts in the province – Kubu Raya, Ketapang, Sekadau, Melawi and Bengkayang – have declared a state of emergency to enable local authorities to access central government support, including military assistance, to put out the fires.

Dr Sutopo also expressed concern that although 150 hot spots were detected across West Kalimantan, the number of fires there may be higher.

“Land and forest fires in West Kalimantan continue despite our continued efforts to suppress them,” he added.

He warned that the number of hot spots is probably higher as the satellites may not have passed over all the forest and land areas where fires could be burning.

Other areas in Indonesia were also hit by forest fires, albeit not as badly as in 2015 when the burning of forest and peatland in Kalimantan and Sumatra produced a transboundary haze, which blanketed the region and led to record air pollution levels for months.

Aside from those in West Kalimantan, the hot spots were spread across other provinces such as South Sumatra (23 hot spots), South Sulawesi (18), Riau (16) and East Nusa Tenggara (12).

Dr Sutopo said the hot spots were spotted on private plantation land, community-owned land and in national parks, in hard-to-reach locations.

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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

“The areas burned are generally areas that are difficult to access and away from settlements, that is why (the fires) are difficult to extinguish,” he added.

As of Saturday, 18 helicopters have been deployed for fire-fighting operations in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. All five provinces are currently in a state of emergency.

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said last Sunday that helicopters will deployed to put out fires over areas where there is limited road access.

“If land access is difficult or shut down for a long time, then we will use water-bombings,” she said.

The dry season in Indonesia is forecast to end in September, at the earliest.


 (Contains links to several related articles)

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Carbon monoxide concentrations world-wide during the Indonesian burning season, 2015


Indonesia Court Finds Corporation Guilty of Setting Illegal Fires

August 31, 2016

A helicopter from Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency dousing fires in Kampar in Riau province on Aug 29, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The Palembang High Court has overturned a lower court’s decision to clear pulpwood firm Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) of illegally setting fires on its concession land in 2014.

According to a copy of the Aug 12 ruling that was seen by The Straits Times, the firm was found to have “committed an unlawful act”.

The High Court also ordered BMH, which supplies products to Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group, to pay 78.5 billion rupiah (S$8 million) in damages.

The award is a small fraction of the 7.8 trillion rupiah in damages sought by the Environment and Forestry Ministry when it first filed the civil suit against BMH last year.

Still, green groups such as the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) hailed the latest verdict as a “small win” for Indonesia’s conservation efforts.

Walhi’s South Sumatra chapter director Hadi Jatmiko said: “On the one hand, the court is on the side of the environment by saying BMH is guilty of having illegally burnt 20,000ha of its own concession in 2014. But it is disappointing that the compensation is less than 1 per cent of the total sum demanded.”

Indonesia – through its Environment and Forestry Ministry – has been taking errant firms to task over illegal forest fires that have been the cause of transboundary haze pollution.

Mr Jasmin Ragil Utomo, who is from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, yesterday acknowledged the court’s decision.

“The most important thing is that the court has declared that the company has committed a violation,” said Mr Jasmin, who is the ministry’s director for environmental dispute settlement.

BMH’s lawyers declined to comment on the case, saying they have not received an official copy of the latest verdict.

This is not the first time BMH is in the news over allegations related to forest fires. Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency earlier this year said the firm has been ordered to restore 95,000ha of damaged peatland in its concessions.

An Indonesian soldier tries to extingusih a peatland fire in Kampar, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia on Aug 23, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS / ANTARA FOTO

Satellite data from Global Forest Watch detected at least 22 fire alerts in their pulpwood concessions between Aug 21 and Sunday.

Indonesia – through its Environment and Forestry Ministry – has been taking errant firms to task over illegal forest fires that have been the cause of transboundary haze pollution.

Haze from fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra returned in recent weeks, prompting fears of a repeat of last year’s crisis, which sent air pollution levels to a record high and affected millions of people in the region.

Yesterday, heavy rainfall across Indonesia provided much-needed relief for people in Sumatra’s Riau province.

Several areas in Riau were hit by severe air pollution in recent days, prompting some schools to suspend classes since Monday.

Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) yesterday said a combination of rain and fire-fighting efforts, including cloud-seeding operations, helped improve air quality.

Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who heads BNPB’s data and information division, said the air pollution standard index for most regions in Sumatra was generally under 50, or in the “good” range.

In Riau’s Rokan Hilir regency – one of the worst-hit areas in recent days and where fire-fighting efforts were focused yesterday – the air quality was “moderate”.

“Fire-fighting operations in the six provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan will continue,” said Dr Sutopo.

A total of five BNPB helicopters as well as three fixed-wing aircraft have been deployed to douse fires in Riau, he added.

Singapore East to Manila, From Thailand South To Malaysia — Indonesia’s Fires Making Smokey, Hazy, Murky, Unhealthy Mess — “Brown Death”

October 27, 2015
Singapore Central Business District, or CBD skyline is covered with a thick haze. AP Photo/Joseph Nair

MANILA, Philippines – A light haze is affecting Metro Manila, but the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services  Administration (PAGASA) will not confirm that it is caused by Indonesian forest fires.

Robert Sawi, PAGASA assistant weather services chief, said it is unlikely that the haze in Manila came from Indonesia because winds blowing from the northeast are currently prevailing in the country.

The Department of Health is also looking into reports that two individuals have died due to the haze in General Santos City.

“It’s still being verified. It might not be related,” Health Secretary Janette Garin said.

President Aquino also stressed yesterday that the country is not inclined to support a call to hold Indonesia accountable for the haze that crossed borders but would rather like to help the Southeast Asian neighbor.

“Well, the haze affecting us… just happened recently. We’re actually asking our Department of Science and Technology to study the whole matter and deliver recommendations as to what actions we should take,” Aquino said at the annual presidential forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

“Having said that, instead of castigating an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) brother-country, perhaps in the ASEAN summit, we should really look for the wherewithal, the direction, the attitude –attitudinal change whereby we can help Indonesia avoid creating this problem,” the President added.

He said it would be the most “constructive” thing to do rather than concentrate “on apportioning blame.”

The labor coalition Nagkaisa also urged Aquino yesterday to immediately activate and order the Inter-Agency Committee on Environmental Health (IACEH) to draft programs that will address the problem’s impact on people’s health.

Gerard Seno, executive vice president of the Associated Labor Union (ALU) and a Nagkaisa member, said the government should be ready with a plan in case haze reaches Metro Manila and puts at risk the lives of 12 million people.

At the House, Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said he would ask the Department of Health (DOH) for a comprehensive report on various health hazards, especially those affecting women and children, in the environment.

He lamented that the country was listed as having the highest female adult mortality rate in Southeast Asia at 144 deaths per 1,000 and the fourth highest in child and infant mortality at 30 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Seno said he would rather have the government prepare for an eventuality now than be sorry later on.

“The inter-agency committee on environmental health should respond quickly to the already affected residents in some parts of Visayas and Mindanao. We also wanted Philippine government to take the necessary action to prepare the vulnerable segment Metro Manila residents to cope with the possible long-term, toxic presence of haze,” Seno noted, as he cited Executive Order 489 that provides for the creation of IACEH, which will facilitate government response against environmental hazards.

Based on reports, the Indonesian Disaster Agency estimated that around 500,000 people have developed respiratory problems since the fires began in July. Millions of people are dealing with smoke levels roughly 10 times the level the World Health Organization considers hazardous.

Health Assistant Secretary Gerry Bayugo said they are investigating the reported deaths in General Santos because “not all deaths that occurred in the affected areas should be attributed to haze.”

“From time to time, there are people who die of illnesses or some other reasons. What we must do is to verify the cause of death,” Bayugo added.

The DOH earlier issued a health advisory on how those living in areas reached by haze should cope.

On Sunday, Malacañang also said that concerned government agencies were monitoring the haze from Indonesia, including the departments on Environment and Natural Resources, Science and Technology, Health, and Transportation and Communications (DOTC). The local disaster risk reduction management councils are also helping monitor the situation.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they were looking into the long-term effects of the haze as he cited a PAGASA report that the thick haze observed in some areas in Mindanao was brought by equatorial winds enhanced by Typhoon Lando, which hit the country last week.

He added that the DENR was looking into the air situation in Davao, Cotabato, Zamboanga and other monitoring stations in Mindanao.

PAGASA’s Sawi said the haze in Manila could be could be due to the pollution brought by motor vehicles.

“This (yesterday) morning, data showed that the visibility is between seven and 10 kilometers,” he said.

A visibility of less than five km is considered heavy, less than eight km is moderate, and less than 10 km is considered light haze.

At 8 a.m. yesterday, light haze was observed at the PAGASA station at the Science Garden in Quezon City, while moderate haze was spotted over Zamboanga peninsula.With Sheila Crisostomo, Aurea Calica, Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin, Paolo Romero, Artemio Dumlao



Indonesia Sends Warships To Help With Smoke, Haze and Burning Peatland

October 26, 2015


Indonesia haze Kahayan riverbanks, go about their daily routines amid the haze, in Palangkaraya city, in Central Kalimantan, on Oct 25, 2015. PHOTO by AFP

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia has deployed three warships, with more on standby, to deliver face masks, tents and medical supplies to thousands of people affected by acrid haze from forest fires, an official said Monday (Oct 26).

For nearly two months, thousands of fires caused by slash-and-burn farming in Indonesia have choked vast expanses of Southeast Asia, forcing schools to close and scores of flights and some international events to be cancelled.

Three warships have arrived in Kalimantan – Indonesia’s half of Borneo and one of the worst affected regions – bringing much needed medical staff, shelters, cooking stoves and protective masks.

Indonesian military spokesman Tatang Sulaiman said the plan was to build temporary shelters with air purifiers and beds away from haze-plagued cities, but the ships could also act as evacuation centres if needed.

“Our warships are ready to evacuate residents, whether to these temporary shelters or even on board. We are prepared for that,” he told AFP.

“Those who will be evacuated first will be children and those suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses.” Three more ships are stocked and ready to leave for either Kalimantan or South Sumatra, while another five could be pressed into service later if needed, he added.

The government has deployed around 30 aircraft to fight the fires and for cloud seeding, with 22,000 troops on the ground to combat the blazes, which are among the worst in decades.

Indonesia’s disaster agency say the fires from slash-and-burn farming in Kalimantan and neighbouring Sumatra have killed 10 people so far, some of whom died while fighting the blazes and others from the pollution.

The agency estimated at least half a million people have suffered from respiratory illness since the fires started in July and 43 million people have been affected in the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.



Russian jets joining effort to douse Indonesian forest fires

October 21, 2015


PALEMBANG, Indonesia (AP) — Two Russian jets that can drop 12.5 tons of water arrived on Sumatra island Wednesday to help douse Indonesia’s massive forest fires that have spread smoky haze over parts of Southeast Asia.

The amphibious planes, leased by Indonesia’s government and sent by Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, can suck 13,250 liters (3,500 gallons) of water from a river or sea in seconds. Similar planes helped extinguish fires on Sumatra and Borneo islands in 2007.

Russian crew members walk on the tarmac in front of a Beriev Be-200 amphibious firefighting jet at the haze-blanketed Sultan Mahmud Baddarudin II Airport in Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Two Be-200 aircrafts leased by the Indonesian government have arrived on Sumatra island to help douse the massive forest fires that have caused widespread haze in parts of Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/Bagus Kurniawan)

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the two Beriev Be-200 planes landed in Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province. The Russian jets will be deployed to fight the fires soon.

Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and Japan are among the other countries that have sent aircraft, firefighters or chemicals and experts to help fight the forest and brush fires that have raged for months.

Indonesia has been unable to put out the rugged fires, especially in peat-rich provinces on Sumatra and Kalimantan and on the Indonesian part of Borneo island where fires have been worse this year due to intentional burning and the absence of rain because of the El Nino effect.

The fires have spread a thick, smoky haze over Indonesia as well as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. It has forced cancellations of flights and closing of schools, and caused numerous cases of acute Borneo . Media have reported at least 7 deaths.

Nugroho said satellite images showed more than 3,200 hotspots on Wednesday, more than two-thirds on Sumatra and Borneo but also appearing on other major islands of Java, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said some 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) of forests and plantation land have been razed by fires in Sumatra and Borneo.

“The government has tried hard to extinguish the wildfires across the country, but it has gotten out of control,” Nurbaya said. She added that the ministry has revoked licenses of three plantation companies and suspended 11 others.

Indonesia has deployed nearly 26,000 soldiers, police and fire personnel in six provinces to fight the fires, with 25 aircraft conducting water-bombing and cloud-seeding operations.

National Police chief of detective Lt. Gen. Anang Iskandar said two officials of Malaysian companies have been named suspects. Police in several provinces are handling 256 cases with 243 suspects, including 17 company officials, and 83 of the suspects have been arrested.

Indonesia investigating Singapore-owned company for forest fires; suspends 4 local firms — Air pollution at unhealthy levels

September 22, 2015

A Singapore -owned firm is under investigation for causing forest fires in Indonesia, where authorities have also ordered four Indonesian companies to suspend operations.

POSTED: 22 Sep 2015

The root of a tree is seen in a burnt palm plantation area near Tanjung Siapi Api port in Palembang, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Beawiharta

JAKARTA: A Singapore-owned firm is under investigation for causing forest fires in Indonesia, an Indonesian environment ministry official said on Tuesday.

Thick smoke caused by forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan islands has blanketed the region in recent weeks, pushing pollution levels to unhealthy levels.

Over 200 plantation and forestry companies are being investigated, said Muhammad Yunus, director of criminal law at the environment ministry.

“That number can still go up,” he said. Mr Yunus added a Singapore-owned company is among the companies being investigated, but did not elaborate.

Indonesia’s smoke is everybody lung problem: Smoke rising from fires burning at a concession area in Pelalawan, Riau province, yesterday. Green groups have maintained that lenient sentences against errant companies remain a weak link as the deterrent effect has not been felt. AFP photo


Indonesian authorities have taken action against four Indonesian companies in Sumatra whose lands were set ablaze resulting in smog.

PT Tempirai PAM Resources and PT Waringin Agro Jaya – oil palm plantation companies in South Sumatra – have had their permits revoked. They have been instructed to stop operations.

The other two companies are in Riau. The Environment and Forestry ministry suspended the operations of PT Hutani Solarestari and PT Riau Langgam Inti Hibrido – a logging company.

All four companies could face prosecution should the Indonesian authorities pursue criminal charges against them. So far 27 companies are being investigated for carrying out the slash and burn techniques in clearing their land, while 140 individuals are also being questioned.

Meanwhile rain has brought much respite to residents in Riau – one of the areas hardest hit by the haze. Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation agency said the air quality and visibility have improved along with the drastic drop in the number of hotspots. Some schools have began to re-open.