The drought season is coming to Riau and is estimated to reach its peak between this month and July, with the number of hotspots increasing during that time.
Rokan Hilir regency now has the largest number of hotspots in the province, with forest fires resulting in smog, although it is still below the danger level.
Rokan Hilir Environmental Impact Control Agency head Murni Wati said Tuesday the number of hotspots had grown to 33 in 10 districts.
“Smog is still relatively thin and usually appears in the morning and late afternoon. Smog fades away during midday with the wind,” she said.
She said the agency and district administrations continued to disseminate information to residents about the danger of clearing land by fire.
“The number of hotspots began to decline in several locations because of rain, based on our observation. The awareness among people is very much expected to prevent the emergence of new hotspots in other locations,” Murni said.
According to the Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), hotspots have spread to 11 regencies and cities in the province. Pekanbaru, however, remains the only city that is free from hotspots.
Hotspots have begun to flare up since last Friday, with 9 detected initially. The number grew to 15 and then to 52, the agency said.
The hotspots remain present in Rokan Hilir, Pelalawan, Kampar and Meranti Islands, while hotspots in other regencies and cities flare up on and off, said Pekanbaru BMKG head of analysis and forecast team Marzuki.
“Our last observation revealed that there were 32 hotspots remaining. The decline [in the number of hotspots] occurred only by coincidence,” he said.
He said air temperatures that had reached 34 degree Celsius, which partly triggered the rising number of and area of coverage of hotspots. The hot temperatures are expected to continue until August.
“It is forecast that Riau would begin entering the early rainy season in September. Therefore, we have to continue to be cautious about the possibility of forest fires [at least] for the coming two months,” said Marzuki.
Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency head Syamsurizal said the provincial administration had asked for help from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency in planes to observe hotspot locations and to induce artificial rain, among other measures. (mtq)