New global study reveals the ‘staggering’ loss of forests caused by industrial agriculture

New global study reveals the ‘staggering’ loss of forests caused by industrial agriculture

The finding is “a really big deal,” says tropical ecologist Daniel Nepstad, director of the Earth Innovation Institute, an environmental nonprofit in San Francisco, California, because it suggests that corporate commitments alone are not going to adequately protect forests from expanding agriculture.

Researchers already had a detailed global picture of forest loss and regrowth. In 2013, a team led by Matthew Hansen, a remote-sensing expert at the University of Maryland in College Park, published high-resolution maps of forest change between 2000 and 2012 from satellite imagery. But the maps, available online, didn’t reveal where deforestation—the permanent loss of forest—was taking place.

Source Link: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/09/scientists-reveal-how-much-world-s-forests-being-destroyed-industrial-agriculture

Wildfires raze hectares of land in Sukabumi nature reserves

Wildfires raze hectares of land in Sukabumi nature reserves

News Desk | The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, September 4, 2018 | 12:44 pm

Wildfires engulfed hectares of land in the Cikepuh and Cibanteng nature reserves in Sukabumi, West Java, between July and August.

The West Java Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) recorded that at least 27 hotspots, which were located on the savannah, had scorched about 232 ha of the two nature reserves’ total area, kompas.com reported.

Kusmara of the BKSDA said the savannah was prone to fires during the dry season.

The fires, he added, were also found inside the buffer zones close to land owned by local residents.

“We are still investigating the cause of the fire because there is suspicion of illegal activities in the area,” Kusmara said on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com, without giving more information.

Cikepuh and Cibanteng are part of the Ciletuh-Pelabuhan Ratu National Geopark, which gained global recognition as a UNESCO Global Geopark earlier this year.

In September last year, fires razed at least 19 ha of forest in Cikepuh.

Kusmara said the authorities were continuing to work to prevent further fires, including encouraging local residents to take part in wildfire prevention campaigns.

During this year’s dry season peak between July and August, the country saw an increase in the number of land and forest fires in several provinces, with West Kalimantan becoming the region with the most hotspots to date. (kuk/ipa)

Source Link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/09/04/wildfires-raze-hectares-of-land-in-sukabumi-nature-reserves.html

Fires and haze return to Indonesia as peat protection bid falls short

Fires and haze return to Indonesia as peat protection bid falls short

by  on 29 August 2018

JAKARTA/PONTIANAK/PEKANBARU — Like their compatriots across Indonesia, a group of residents in the Bornean city of Pontianak celebrated the country’s Independence Day on Aug. 17 with a flag-raising ceremony.

But for them, the simple act of hoisting the Red-and-White was a physically taxing endeavor, thanks to the toxic haze billowing from a smoldering plot of peatland nearby. The sound of wood crackling in the fire could be heard as the participants, their surgical masks doing nothing to keep the smoke out of their eyes, stood through the ceremony. When it was over, they returned to what they were doing: working to put out the pockets of fire flaring up from the mulch-rich peat soil.

Beni Sulastiyo is one of the leaders of this group of residents of Pontianak, the capital of the province of West Kalimantan, who have banded together as volunteer firefighters. He says they see the fire problem as something that the whole community, and not just the government, needs to address.

“This should be a shared responsibility for everyone. As members of the community, we’re on the same page in helping the government,” he says.

Ateng Tanjaya is nearly 70, and has worked as a volunteer firefighter in Pontianak for more than 40 years. The work is often thankless, he says, and the hardships legion: lack of hoses and fire equipment, shortage of water, and scant funding and logistical support.

For these volunteers, the fires won’t end any time soon. The dry season is kicking in, and after a relatively haze-free 2016 and 2017, conditions this year look ripe for the fires to grow out of control.

Deadly heat

There have been nearly 2,200 fire hot spots recorded across Indonesia between Jan. 1 and Aug. 14, according to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the country’s leading green NGO. West Kalimantan recorded the highest number of any province, at 779.

At least four people are confirmed to have died in the fires in the province. The latest victim, a 69-year-old farmer in Sintang district, reportedly died while trying to put out a blaze on his land on Aug. 19. Six days earlier, a family of three in Melawi district died in their burning house.

In Pontianak, the haze has sometimes been so thick that visibility is limited to 5 meters (16 feet). Flights into and out of the city’s Supadio International Airport are under constant threat of being cancelled or diverted whenever visibility drops below 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). Elsewhere across the province, schools were ordered shut on Aug. 20 when the haze worsened.

Satellite imagery from the Global Forest Watch platform shows smoke plumes in the most affected areas, including Pontianak and Ketapang district.

Air quality in Pontianak has been declining in recent weeks, according to data from the national weather agency, the BMKG, uploaded to the global monitoring platform IQAIR Air Visual. This has been marked by an increase in the concentration of tiny carcinogenic particles known as PM2.5 in the air.

These particles are small enough to enter the bloodstream; long-term exposure to them can cause acute respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease.

PM2.5 concentrations crossed into dangerous territory on Aug. 19 and 23, when the average daily levels registered at 73.5 and 79 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively — triple the World Health Organization’s guideline level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter in a 24-hour period.

‘Shoot on sight’

It’s a similar story across the Karimata Strait from Borneo, on the island of Sumatra. Norton Marbun, a resident of Rantau Benuang village in Riau province, says the fires there began on Aug. 14, razing the villagers’ oil palm farms.

He was out in the fields helping fight the flames, he says, and almost didn’t notice the fire closing in on his house, where his wife and children were sheltering. He rushed back to find the house, which he’d just finished building three months earlier after 11 years of saving up, filled with smoke. His wife didn’t want to leave — the house was all they had, she said — and Norton says he had to drag her and the kids out as the flames bore down.

They were barely out when a gas canister exploded inside the house. “If I’d been even 10 minutes late, maybe my family would have been skeletons inside the house,” Norton says.

They lost everything with their house, including two motorcycles. The family has since moved to a neighboring village. But even there they can’t escape from the haze.

“Now my children are having difficulty breathing due to the haze,” Norton says.

As growing forest and peat fires fan the haze across Riau, the military has been roped into the effort to fight the fires. A local military commander says nearly all the fires are set deliberately, and has issued a shoot-on-sight order for anyone caught doing so. (It’s not clear how this would be justified; Indonesian law has clear statutes proscribing extrajudicial shootings by law enforcement.)

Policy failure?

Forest and peat fires are an annual occurrence in Indonesia. In 2015, the country suffered one of its worst burning seasons in years, with more than 20,000 square kilometers (7,700 square miles) of land razed — an area four times the size of Grand Canyon National Park. The resultant haze sickened hundreds of thousands people in Indonesia and spread into Malaysia and Singapore.

On the heels of that disaster, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced a series of measures aimed at preventing future fires. These include an ambitious plan to restore 24,000 square kilometers (9,300 square miles) of degraded peatland and imposing a moratorium on peat clearance.

The policies seem to have paid off, with a significant reduction in the number of hotspots in 2016 and 2017. Last year, officials recorded zero days with haze resulting from forest fires.

The government has repeatedly cited those figures as proof that its policies are working. But some of this year’s fires have flared up in regions prioritized by the government for peat restoration, including West Kalimantan and Riau.

Walhi, the environmental watchdog, says it has detected hotspots within peat hydrological units, the areas of peatland bordered by rivers or other bodies of water.

“The fact that this year the number of hotspots is very high in West Kalimantan shows that efforts to improve peat governance in the province have failed,” Anton P. Widjaya, director of Walhi’s West Kalimantan chapter, said at a recent press conference in Jakarta.

He said Walhi had compared the number of hotspots in peat areas before and after the government launched its program under the auspices of the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG), and found no improvement.

“It turned out the number of hotspots didn’t differ that much,” Anton said. “So the work that the BRG has done on the ground hasn’t had a significant impact over the short term. The fact is that fires are still happening in these priority areas during the dry season.”

Riko Kurniawan, the director of Walhi’s Riau chapter, said the return of the fires in the province this year showed the government’s programs had been boosted in the previous two years by a less-severe dry season.

“Sure, there was no haze in Riau in 2016 and 2017, but that’s because the dry seasons those years were wetter, and because the government did its best to extinguish fires,” Riko said at the press conference. “But what about peat restoration and protection? As far as we’re concerned, that’s stagnant.”

Rewetting peat

BRG head Nazir Foead says the government’s peat restoration efforts might not be enough to prevent this year’s fires simply because of the sheer size of peat areas that have been degraded and are thus prone to burning again.

He cites the case of a village in Riau that was included in the peat restoration program last year. The village is surrounded by dozens of square kilometers of peatland that have to be rewetted to prevent fires from breaking out. To this end, the villagers blocked the canals that were previously dug to drain the land in preparation for planting.

But the work only took place two months before the onset of the dry season, and not all of the canals could be blocked in time.

“And indeed, fires happened this year on the edge of the village that hadn’t been restored yet,” Nazir says.

Even after drainage canals have been blocked, it can take years of rains before a peat area is restored to its original wet, sponge-like condition.

“If all the canals have been blocked, does that ensure there’ll be no more fire? Not really,” Nazir says. “Because the peatland has been dried out for so long, and so when the canals are blocked, the peatland isn’t immediately rewetted.”

In addition to working with villages that are prone to fires, the peat restoration program also requires companies to restore degraded peatland inside their concessions. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has approved the peat restoration plans of 45 timber plantation companies and 107 oil palm and rubber plantation firms, according to Karliansyah, the ministry official in charge of environmental damage mitigation.

The ministry is still waiting for 80 more oil palm and rubber plantation companies and more than 30 timber plantation companies to submit and revise their restoration plans, he added.

“I guarantee that the 45 timber companies and the 107 plantation companies have done [peat restoration],” Karliansyah said. “But outside those companies, there might still be degraded peatland. If the weather is dry and there’s a small fire, then the fire could spread.”

Trading blame

The ministry’s fire mitigation chief, Raffles B. Pandjaitan, says this year’s increase in hotspots coincides with the start of the land-clearing season in West Kalimantan, where local farmers practice a traditional method of slash-and-burn called gawai serentak.

He says the farmers take advantage of the dry season, which peaks in August and September, to burn their land, after which they begin planting.

“It’s during this slash-and-burn season that the risk of fires is at its greatest,” Raffles said in a press release. “If we don’t keep the slash-and-burn practice under control, the fires will spread to other, bigger plantations.”

Walhi has refuted the government’s claim, saying many of the hotspots it has detected are in the concessions of large companies, not the farms of smallholders. The group says there have been 765 fire spots in corporate concessions so far this year.

Walhi executive director Nur Hidayati says it’s likely the government is blaming smallholders for this year’s fires because its own firefighting efforts so far have been focused on areas close to these villages.

“But [fires on] companies’ concessions that are far from villages are being ignored,” she told Mongabay in Jakarta recently.

Walhi spokeswoman Khalisah Khalid says that while some indigenous communities continue to practice slash-and-burn clearing, they do so in a way that keeps the fire contained. This keeps the fires from spreading outside the communities’ land and damaging the environment, according to a 2016 Walhi study on how traditional communities manage peatlands.

“Indigenous peoples have always been blamed for causing forest and peat fires,” Khalisah says. “But as this study shows, there are 20 steps that the Dayak indigenous tribe have to go through when they want to cultivate peatland.”

She also notes that a 2009 law that allows smallholders to clear land by burning up to 2 hectares (5 acres) — a stipulation aimed at preserving traditional methods of land clearing. By blaming traditional farmers for this year’s fires, the government has failed to understand the importance of local wisdoms about farming on peat, Khalisah says.

Walhi attributes the outbreak of fires this season on companies that went unpunished for previous fires and were thus emboldened to continue to the practice.

The government itself is also to blame for preventing the fires. That, at least, is the judgment of a court in Central Kalimantan province, which recently ruled in favor of a citizen lawsuit calling on the president and various ministers and other senior officials to be held accountable for the 2015 fires. In their suit, the plaintiffs argued that the government failed in its duty of protecting residents of Central Kalimantan from the impact of the fires.

The respondents in the lawsuit include the president; the ministers of environment, agriculture, land, and health; and the governor and provincial legislature of Central Kalimantan.

In its ruling, the high court in Palangka Raya, the provincial capital, ordered the respondents to pass regulation to mitigate land and forest fires

The government, however, is appealing the case to the Supreme Court, to the dismay of activists.

“I think there’s no need for the president to be defensive and file an appeal,” Walhi water and ecosystem campaigner Wahyu A. Pradana told local media. “What the president should do is obey all the orders in the ruling, because they’re for the sake of the people.”

Walhi has also called on the authorities to take action against companies with fires on their concessions, instead of going after local farmers. The environment ministry in mid-August sealed off concessions held by five companies in Kubu Raya district, West Kalimantan. It did not identify the companies by name.

“The government is very serious in handling land and forest fires,” Rasio Ridho Sani, the ministry’s head of law enforcement, said in a press release. “This move is to support our law enforcement effort so that there’s a deterrent effect. We will keep monitoring other burned locations using satellite and drone.”

Banner image: A group of locals in West Kalimantan participates in a flag-raising ceremony amid toxic haze from nearby peat fires. Image by Aseanty Pahlevi/Mongabay Indonesia. 

Article published by 

Four killed in Indonesia forest fires, police arrest suspects

Four killed in Indonesia forest fires, police arrest suspects

PONTIANAK, Indonesia (AP) – Police in the Indonesian part of Borneo island have arrested more than a dozen people suspected of starting forest fires that have killed four people in the past month.

West Kalimantan police chief Didi Haryono said yesterday that two of the 27 people wanted by police died in blazes they started to clear land for planting. He said 14 people have been arrested so far.

They could be prosecuted under an environmental protection law that allows a maximum 10-year prison sentence for setting fires to clear land.

The national disaster agency says four people have died in West Kalimantan’s forest fires in the past month, including two suspects.

Millions of hectares burned in Indonesia during annual dry season fires in 2015 that spread a health-damaging haze across the region for weeks.

The disaster, estimated by the World Bank to have caused losses of USD16 billion, was exacerbated by the practice of draining swampy peatland forests for industrial plantations, making them highly combustible. Indonesia’s government imposed a moratorium on peatland development in 2016 but has made little progress with plans to restore such wetlands to their original condition.

Officials said the recent haze in West Kalimantan has diminished due to fire-fighting efforts.

Sahat Irawan Manik, an official with a local fire unit, said on Monday that conditions had especially improved in the provincial capital, Pontianak, and around the airport.

“There are still some fires in five districts but there are water bombing teams by the Disaster Mitigation Agency, which has deployed 10 helicopters to help extinguish the fires,” Manik said.

About 1,000 hectares of fires have been extinguished across the province, he said.

Raffles B. Panjaitan, director of investigation and forest protection at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said the number of “hotspots” in West Kalimantan had dropped to 21 on Monday from 60 on Sunday.

Panjaitan said that so far this year, 71,959 hectares of land have burned in forest fires compared with 165,464 hectares from January to July last year.

Link: https://borneobulletin.com.bn/four-killed-in-indonesia-forest-fires-police-arrest-suspects/

Concerns Rising in ASEAN Over Borneo Fires, Haze

Concerns Rising in ASEAN Over Borneo Fires, Haze

Max Walden

As ambient air pollution chokes Jakarta amid hosting the Asian Games, many in Malaysia are accusing Indonesia of being responsible for heightened levels of haze, which they say is because of fires in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo island.

A smoky haze from fires, exacerbated by hot, dry conditions as well as the result of the deliberate burning of land for agriculture, threatens to spark another diplomatic conflict between Indonesia and its neighbors. A similar rift occurred in 2015 when smoke spread from Kalimantan and Sumatra to blanket Singapore and large parts of Malaysia.

“I continue to invite all parties to care for forests and land. Stop hurting nature by burning,” Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s minister of Environment and Forestry, tweeted Wednesday. “We don’t have plan B, because there is NO planet B.”

Southeast Asia has experienced annual haze during the dry season since at least 2005, in part because of agricultural producers using burning as a cheap and effective way to clear land.

About 60 to 70 percent of fires in 2015 occurred in degraded peatlands, where burning releases an enormous amount of carbon dioxide, producing a particularly noxious form of smog.

Severe respiratory problems

In a paper published in the journal Respirology last month, Malaysian researchers found that hospitalizations for breathing problems increased significantly during periods of haze. Severe respiratory problems accounted for 4 percent of admissions to intensive care units during times of haze, compared to 2 percent generally.

Malaysian social media has been abuzz with accusations that Indonesia is responsible for increased levels of smog in recent weeks.

According to Global Forest Watch, there were more than 17,000 fire alerts across Kalimantan in the past week, the greatest number of which were in West Kalimantan. Its capital, Pontianak, sits more than 900 kilometers (571 miles) east of Kuala Lumpur and is closer in proximity to many Malaysian cities than it is to Jakarta.

Experts say it is unclear, however, whether heightened levels of air pollution in Malaysia are being caused by Indonesian forest fires.

“If there are large fires and the wind is heading that way, there’s a possibility. But to be certain, you’d need analysis of data,” said Dr. Raden Driejana, an air quality expert from the Bandung Institute of Technology. “It’s dry season [in Indonesia], and also in Malaysia, so there could be fires there, too.”

“The fires are getting worse in Kalimantan, but they are still far from those in 1982 and 1997,” Arief Wijaya, climate and forests senior manager at the World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia, told VOA.

The World Health Organization said that exposure to ambient air pollution can cause an array of deadly conditions, such as heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, and respiratory infections, in children. More than a half-million Indonesians were estimated to suffer ill health effects from the 2015 blazes.

A study published by scientists from Harvard and Columbia universities in 2016 showed that severe haze in 2015 may have caused more than 100,000 premature deaths in Southeast Asia, a claim downplayed by the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Driejana, the air quality expert, said the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has done “quite a lot” since 2015 to address the problem and has had success in reducing the severity of fires, identifying the sources of haze, enforcing newly introduced laws, and providing “a lot of education for the community” regarding the risks of fires.

Steps taken

Indonesia arrested several corporate executives in relation to the 2015 haze, and Jokowi later established the Peatland Restoration Agency under a presidential decree in January 2016 and has focused on fire prevention, mitigation, and enforcement.

But WRI’s Wijaya said, “Fires are only a symptom of weak or failed land use governance.” While big palm oil or paper plantation companies have largely stopped using burning methods for land clearing, “smallholders may have a big role in setting up fires,” he said.

“You can still see things, but when you go out of the house, you need to wear a mask,” Ratri Kusumohartono, a campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia, told VOA of the current air quality conditions in Pontianak.

After a week in the city of about 235,000 people, Kusumohartono told VOA in a telephone interview that she had been hospitalized for two days and said doctors had reported increasing numbers of casualty admissions for respiratory conditions.

In the past week, local media reported that at least four farmers who were tending their fields were killed when they became trapped in blazes.

“I have also talked with some other NGOs here the past few days and they’re also quite worried that the government is not taking this more seriously, in terms of getting fires out and keeping people safe, because at this point some fires are already a few meters away from people’s housing,” Kusumohartono said. “It’s really time for the government to step up their efforts to manage this.”

Link: https://www.voanews.com/a/concerns-rising-in-ASEAN-over-Borneo-fires-haze/4542338.html

Schools close as haze worsens in Pontianak in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan

Schools close as haze worsens in Pontianak in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan

PUBLISHED AUG 21, 2018, 1:21 PM SGT

PONTIANAK, INDONESIA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Authorities in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, have ordered temporary school closures, as thick haze from forest fires has worsened in the city.

Pontianak Mayor Sutarmidji announced the school closures on Sunday (Aug 19) via his Facebook account.

“I have instructed PAUD (early childhood education centers), kindergarten and elementary schools to close and resume operations on Aug 27. As for junior high schools, students can go back to school on Friday,” he wrote.

The closure applies to all schools that are under regional government supervision.

Meanwhile, the West Kalimantan Education and Culture Agency has issued a circular that calls on senior high schools to close from Monday to Thursday in Pontianak and Kubu Raya regency, which are affected by the haze.

The agency stated that the closures might be extended depending on the haze.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said hotspots detected in West Kalimantan had decreased to 526 by 8.22am local time on Monday. On the morning of Aug 16, the BNPB had recorded 1,061 hotspots across the province.

Six helicopters have been deployed to combat the forest fires in the province, which resulted from employing slash-and-burn practices to clear agricultural land.

Link: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/schools-close-as-haze-worsens-in-pontianak-in-indonesias-west-kalimantan

Thinning forests resulting in fuelwood shortage

Thinning forests resulting in fuelwood shortage

Water-bombing intensifies in Kuala Baram, raging forest fire worsens haze

Water-bombing intensifies in Kuala Baram, raging forest fire worsens haze

By Stephen Then

NATION | Sunday, 19 Aug 2018 | 

 

MIRI: The Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department in Miri has intensified aerial water-bombing operations to contain a raging forest fire in Kuala Baram district.

The fire has also worsened the haze, recording an Air Pollutant Index (API) level at 113 on Sunday (Aug 19) morning. A reading of 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 moderate and 101-200 unhealthy.

Miri Fire chief Supt Law Poh Kiong said the Bomba air unit will be dropping more water to control the flames from spreading.

“Yesterday, we carried out 70 rounds of aerial water-bombings.

“This morning, we did more rounds,” he said.

Fire-fighters are also on the ground battling the flames on peat soils.

The wildfire in Kuala Baram is one of the dozens that are burning throughout the state.

Authorities are also worried about the haze and smog coming from West Kalimantan.

There are already more than 120 huge fires raging in the area.

Those fires measuring one sq km in size are called hotspots as they can be detected by satellites even 100km above earth.

Source Link: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/08/19/water-bombing-intensifies-in-kuala-baram-raging-forest-fire-worsens-haze/#5asqd2vHrkYcdtfF.99

 

Shoot-on-sight order issued as Riau fights fires

Shoot-on-sight order issued as Riau fights fires

PUBLISHED AUG 18, 2018, 5:00 AM SGT

Fewer hot spots now, but locals still favor the slash-and-burn method of clearing land

The number of hot spots in the Indonesian province of Riau went down to 27 yesterday from 121 a day earlier with the authorities stepping up measures to fight forest and peatland fires, including a shoot-on-sight order issued by the military against firestarters.

Mr. Jim Gafur, head of emergency response at the Riau disaster management agency (BPBD), told The Straits Times yesterday that fire-fighting teams had succeeded in dousing and containing the fires.

He said the worst-affected areas were north of Pekanbaru, the provincial capital, Bengkalis, Dumai, and Rokan Hilir.

“The scale of the fires has declined significantly today compared with the previous two days. We are doing massive operations,” Mr Jim told The Straits Times by telephone. “Fires had spread because the wind speed surged… We quickly responded to this change of weather.”

Winds, which have become stronger in Sumatra as a result of tropical storm Bebinca in the South China Sea, have moved north-east.

At this time of the year, they usually blow north until November or December before turning south-west, Mr. Jim said.

“Prevailing winds over the northern part of the ASEAN region are forecast to continue blowing from the south-west or west (towards north-east and east), and may strengthen briefly over the next few days under the influence of the (Bebinca) storm,” the Meteorological Service Singapore posted on its website yesterday afternoon.

It added that it was continuing to observe smoke haze from hot spots in Riau and Kalimantan.

Mr. Jim ruled out any possibility of haze moving south towards Palembang, which is co-hosting the 18th Asian Games. No hot spots have been detected in Palembang or South Sumatra so far.

“We are intensifying water bombings. We have been deploying five helicopters, two of which are bigger ones that are able to carry 5,000 liters on each trip. Ground firefighting efforts have also been intensified,” Mr. Jim said.

Commander of the Riau Land and Forest Fire Task Force Sonny Aprianto issued a shoot-on-sight order across Riau on Thursday against those caught red-handed clearing land by burning, state news agency Antara reported.

“Ninety-nine percent of the land and forest fires in Riau province are related to the intentional acts of irresponsible people,” Antara news agency quoted Brigadier-General Sonny as saying.

He also said that the authorities have not had much success in convincing people not to clear land by burning, acknowledging instead that the slash-and-burn method has become more widespread.

Several arsonists have been nabbed, he said, with at least three cases in Dumai city now ready for trial.

Satellites identified 121 hot spots in the province on Thursday morning – a big jump from the 22 detected on Wednesday afternoon, said the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

The military on Thursday also began deploying troops to fire-prone areas in the province, reported Riauterkini.com news portal.

President Joko Widodo and other senior leaders have ordered intensified efforts to combat the land fires to ensure that the Asian Games, which opens today, will not be disrupted.

The city of Palembang, in South Sumatra province, is co-hosting the quadrennial games with the capital Jakarta till Sept 2.

Link: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/shoot-on-sight-order-issued-as-riau-fights-fires

554 acres burnt in 178 Sarawak wildfires

554 acres burnt in 178 Sarawak wildfires

By Stephen Then

NATION | Friday, 17 Aug 2018 | 

MIRI: Some 554 acres (224ha) of forests throughout Sarawak have been burnt in 178 different wildfires since Aug 2.

The latest statistics from the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) showed that in the past 24 hours, firefighting teams statewide had been tackling 15 such wildfires.

The wildfires are in Miri, Kuching, Sri Aman, Sibu, Mukah, Song and Bintulu districts.

According to the Bomba Sarawak operation center, there was a huge wildfire raging in Sri Aman over an area of some 100 acres (one acre is about the size of one football field).

Source Link: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/08/17/554-acres-burnt-in-178-sarawak-wildfires/#kBHkIX85ZyfhU7uM.99