JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – President Joko Widodo has urged the preparation of countermeasures against the annual forest fires that plagued Indonesia, and the rest of Southeast Asia, at the start of the dry season.
The president’s call to be prepared comes, as the government continues to struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic currently ravaging Indonesia.
Putting out the fires
Speaking to governors, mayors and regional security chiefs during a virtual limited cabinet meeting on Tuesday, June 24, the president called on them to prepare countermeasures to mitigate the forest fires.
“The Meteorology, Climate and Geophysics Agency [BMKG] said 55 percent of Indonesia has entered the dry season in April and May” said Jokowi. “The dry season will start in another 27 percent of the country this June.”
Entering a critical period
The president urged that the fires be put out before they started to get out of control. “The authorities should check all potential hotspots before they spread” he said. “The forest fires are expected to peak this August, so we have over a month to prepare countermeasures."
President Jokowi urged the use of technology in combating the fires. “The Riau Regional Police are among those who effectively used technology and telecommunications to monitor hotspots” he said. “We also should use [police and military] units on the ground.”
The danger for Covid-19 patients
National Disaster Mitigation [BNPB] head Doni Monardo said the danger from the forest fires’ smoke is more dire than ever.
“We need to check the forest fires, because their smoke is particularly dangerous for people with respiratory illnesses, like asthma and the corona virus” said the three star army general.
“Fires from peatlands are particularly dangerous, as their soils’ composition make it particularly thick.”
The Environment and Forestry Ministry noted that the fires burned through 1.65 million hectares in 2019. Most of the fires occurred in peatland.