The Jakarta Post
The 2019 dry season in Indonesia is now at an end. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) reported that fires destroyed 328,724 hectare of forests between January and August this year. Riau was the worst affected province, with 49,266 hectares catching fire.
There was a reduced amount of burned land in 2019, compared to the two million hectares lost in 2015. But the fire and haze issue remains a serious national and international matter that needs to be tackled through a collaborative, multi stakeholder approach aimed at comprehensively addressing the root causes of why fires occur.
Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL Group) plays an active role in leading fire prevention programs across its operational concessions in Riau and in surrounding areas. APRIL’s strategic approach to fire management and response is focused on prevention, detection and suppression.
The company is also a member of Fire Free Alliance (FFA), a voluntary multi-stakeholder group made up primarily of forestry and agriculture companies with NGOs and other concerned collaborators and partners.
FFA members, which include APRIL, Asian Agri, IOI, Musim Mas, Sime Darby, Wilmar, IDH and PM Haze, actively collaborate to share information, knowledge and resources as part of a collective effort to achieve lasting solutions to resolving Indonesia’s fires and haze problems arising from forest and land burning.
While a focus on fire prevention is a priority the capability to detect and rapidly respond to any fires within its operational landscape is also important.
Coordinated through its operating arm, PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (PT RAPP), APRIL and supply partners are able to mobilize highly trained and state of the art firefighting resources to tackle fires in Riau, in collaboration with other stakeholders, including the provincial Government, police and disaster agency.
APRIL’s Fire Operations deputy chief Widi Santoso said the company had a total of 1,095 firefighters to monitor plantations maintained by APRIL and its supply partners. To date, APRIL has invested US$9 million in company fire suppression capability. The company also uses 30 special drones, 50 CCTV cameras and two helicopters to monitor its concession areas as well as building Fire Coordination Center in managing fire monitoring and suppression activities.
Under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Riau Governor, the company helps to suppress fires up to 3 km outside its concession boundaries.
But fire prevention is the key to a long term solution to the ongoing challenge of fire and smoke haze. APRIL also collaborates and shares knowledge and information on fire prevention through community engagement under the Fire Free Village Program (FFVP).
Launched in 2015, the FFVP is a fire prevention project which aims to educate and raise awareness about the negative impacts of land burning among local communities in Riau. The FFVP works to increase public awareness through campaign programs that target students, public and religious leaders, and the general public.
To date, the FFVP has engaged with more than 100 communities spanning more than 753,000 ha, and helped reduce burnt area by more than 90%.
In 2018, 30 villages under FFVP were rewarded Rp 100 million for their success of no fires in certain periods. The rewards are given in the form of infrastructure needed by the villagers.
APRIL’s fire protection program manager Sailal Arimi said the FFVP encourages communities not to practice burning for their land preparation. Under the FFVP, local communities are provided with tools for alternative farming systems complemented with educational and awareness initiatives on the impacts of smoke haze from forest fires to encourage behavioral change.
“We know that working with our community partners on preventive efforts is a long term strategy. Despite difficult conditions in 2019, we remain optimistic that through community engagement, we can facilitate solutions that will stop the practice of burning,” he said.