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Jakarta Post

Land, forest fires continue to spread in Sumatra, Kalimantan

  • Jon Afrizal

    The Jakarta Post

Jambi   /   Wed, July 8, 2015   /  08:37 am

Land and forest fires have continued to spread in Sumatra and Kalimantan over the past several days in the midst of the dry season, prompting local authorities to go all-out to curb the impact of the fires on local people and the environment.

In Jambi, local conservation initiative Muarojambi Bersepakat Movement (GMB) reported on Tuesday that fires had started in Pematang Damar forest in Maro Sebo district, Muarojambi regency, over the past several days, burning some 10 hectares of the forest, which serves as a conservation area for various rare orchid species.

GMB deputy chairman Adi Ismanto said the flames came from a number of areas around the forest, including Jambi Tulo, Mudung and Bakung.

'€œPematang Damar forest is surrounded by fire. Unless something is done about it, the forest will be burned to the ground in just a few days,'€ he said.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Jambi on Tuesday spotted 29 wildfires across the province, 14 of which were detected in Muarojambi, six in East Tanjungjabung regency, five in Tebo regency and four in Sarolangun regency.

'€œOf the 29 hot spots, 14 have a confidence level of over 70 percent, meaning that they are almost surely on fire,'€ Jambi BMKG officer Dian Anggaraini said.

In anticipation of haze, East Tanjungjabung Regent Zumi Zola Zulkifli said his administration had prepared 20,000 face masks to be distributed to local residents.

'€œWe have also prepared paramedics,'€ he said, adding that he had instructed all district chiefs in the regency not to leave their respective jurisdictions and to anticipate land and forest fires.

The dry season normally takes place between April and September. The BMKG, however, recently warned that the dry season could last longer this year as a result of the El Niño weather phenomenon, whose effect will last until November.

In Pekanbaru, Riau, many people in the city were seen donning masks to prevent them from inhaling haze-filled air triggered by forest and land fires from several areas in three neighboring provinces, including Jambi.

'€œI'€™m wearing a mask because the air is not fresh as it is polluted with smoke from land fires,'€ 57-year-old Idral, a local resident, said on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news agency.

Acting Riau governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman has also called on locals to join hands in preventing land and forest fires as the dry season could last until the end of the year.

In Pontianak, West Kalimantan Police chief Brig. Gen. Arief Sulistyanto has instructed local police chiefs to deploy personnel to help local people extinguish land and forest fires that have began to occur in a number of regencies over the past week.

He said that based on his own observation, no district or subdistrict administration agencies were participating in ongoing fire-fighting efforts.

West Kalimantan Provincial Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) data showed that six hot spots had been spotted by Saturday.

The number increased to nine on Sunday, four of which were spotted in Kubu Raya regency. The remainder were in Sambas, Bengkayang, Landak and Melawi regencies.

Agency head Sustyo Iriyono earlier said that, as of Monday, the four fires in Kubu Raya had not been extinguished.

'€œA plantation company has also asked us to help extinguish fires on its plantation over fears that it would not be able to do so,'€ he said as quoted by Antara.

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