The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo is set to hold a closed meeting on smog countermeasures at his office at 10 a.m. on Friday amid the continuing disaster of the forest and land fires in several parts of the country.
On Thursday, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the government had not yet named the smog as a national disaster due to legal issues.
'We don't want to discuss national disaster status, since that involves legal issues. But we can assure an all out handling and mobilization of all resources as instructed by President Joko [Jokowi] Widodo,' said Luhut.
He added that local government heads had been given the authority to decide when their residents should be evacuated.
Separately, several community institutions such as the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) refused to name the haze a disaster, since it was caused by humans, not nature.
Previously, the Environment and Forestry Ministry stated that up to 90 percent of this year's forest fires were caused by humans. The total hot spot areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which reached 1,697 hectares, were owned by 413 companies, in which 227 of them were held with forest concession permits and 186 of were are owned by plantation companies.
On Tuesday, the ministry declared Central Kalimantan as the region with the highest level of Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU), at 1,950 -- far above the hazardous threshold, which is between 300 and 500.
Four units of Air Tractors and BE-200 from Australia and Russia arrived in South Sumatra on Thursday to help tackle the fires.
'The four aircraft have landed and departed through the Depati Amir airport [in Bangka] and are ready to supply water from the waters of Bangka Belitung to help with the fire extinguishing efforts,' said Bangka Belitung Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) spokesperson, Teguh Pratama, as quoted by Antara news agency.
Previously, the government refused to receive foreign aid on the matter, but later decided to welcome it, including assistance from Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, China and Australia.
Yet, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Willem Rampangilei said on Thursday that foreign aid did not provide a significant impact due to the short duration of the assistance.
'There are contributions, but if compared to what we have already done, they are not very significant,' said Willem as quoted by tempo.co.
He added that in addition to the foreign aid, the government had also rented 19 helicopters and three Air Tractors. It was currently looking to renting other aircraft, but it was difficult due to the effect of El Nino in many countries.
'The El Nino is occurring everywhere so many countries rented [the aircraft] first,' said Willem. (kes)(++++)
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