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Jakarta Post

Biggest haze operation yet launched

  • Hans Nicholas Jong and Tama Salim

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, October 17, 2015   /  06:06 pm

The government launched on Friday its biggest multinational effort on forest fire mitigation yet, involving reinforcement from three neighboring countries, as haze continues to blanket much of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said that a total of 32 aircraft had been deployed to put out the fires, consisting of 21 helicopters and seven fixed-wing water bombing and four cloud-seeding airplanes, along with 22,146 personnel from the military, police and other government agencies.

'€œThis is the biggest haze emergency operation that the Indonesian government has ever carried out,'€ BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Friday.

Of the 32 aircraft, six were from Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. Russia is expected to join the multinational effort by sending two aircraft capable of carrying 12 tons of water.

The Japanese government has also contributed to the mitigation effort.

On Friday, Japanese Ambassador Yasuaki Tanizaki met with Deputy Foreign Minister AM Fachir to discuss details of the joint effort.

'€œJapan has decided to send around 2 tons of special chemicals for the mitigation of the haze crisis in Indonesia,'€ Tanizaki said in a statement on Friday.

Japan vowed to ship 100 20-liter bottles of Miracle Foam a+, a flame-retardant chemical, to Palembang, South Sumatra, over the weekend. Tanizaki said that Japan would also send a specialist from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to help with fire-extinguishing efforts.

The multinational operation was launched as the fires continued to worsen in some parts of the country.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said that the number of hot spots had again risen on Friday.

'€œToday it'€™s worsening again. The number of hot spots reached 1,005 on Oct. 16 at 7 a.m.,'€ he said.

Haze was also reported in Papua on Friday. Officials had closed Mozes Kilangin airport in Timika for two days following haze coming from the south of Papua, officials said on Friday.

John Rettob, transportation and information office chief, said that visibility at the airport was 500 meters, while the minimum required by the Transportation Ministry is 1,500 m.

Sutopo said that it would not be an easy task to extinguish fires in such a massive number of hot spots.

'€œEspecially on dry peatland, where fires often smolder underground,'€ he said.

He attributed the increasing number of hot spots to continued burning practices.

The annual forest fires have drawn ire from neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, which have been forced to shut down schools and airports.

The Indonesian government is taking several measures to ensure that haze does not return next year.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry is currently drafting a document that will serve as a guideline for all stakeholders to implement sustainable land and forestry management and cultivation.

'€œ[The document will be ready] by the end of this month or early November, before the wet season starts,'€ the ministry'€™s secretary-general Bambang Hendroyono said on Friday.

The document will consist of guidelines for damage recovery after land and forest fires, managing burning forest areas, identifying damage, managing peatland and restoring ecosystems. To complement the guidelines, the government will focus on increasing the role of local people, described by Bambang as the key to sustainable forest governance.

'€œThe designation of customary forests, village forests and community forests will be a solution when areas keep burning,'€ he said.

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