by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Jan 24, 2017
An Indonesian province that suffers annual outbreaks of haze-belching fires said Tuesday it was declaring an early alert to prevent blazes burning out of control after forecasters predicted a dry 2017.
Riau, on the western island of Sumatra, announced the move after a few "hotspots" -- areas of extreme heat detected by satellites which often indicate fires -- were sighted this month.
It came a day after President Joko Widodo urged local authorities to take early steps to prevent a repeat of the haze crisis of 2015.
The fires occur every year on Sumatra and the Indonesian part of Borneo island, typically during the months-long dry season later in the year.
The fires are deliberately started to clear land quickly and cheaply for palm oil and pulpwood plantations.
The 2015 blazes were among the worst on record and sent clouds of toxic smog floating across Southeast Asia, leading large numbers to fall ill.
A US academic study estimated that the crisis may have led to over 100,000 premature deaths.
The alert status in Riau -- below the more significant "state of emergency", which typically indicates a large number of fires burning fiercely -- was set to remain in place until April and allows the province to request more resources from central government.
"We are preparing helicopters for water-bombing to help the regional government," disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told AFP. Several provinces were criticised in 2015 for failing to declare emergencies quickly enough.
The blazes typically start earlier in Riau due its high concentration of carbon-rich peatland and a widespread practice of using fire to clear land.
The Meteorology, Geophysics and Climatology Agency has predicted that this year will be drier than 2016, when an unusually long rainy season prevented major outbreaks of fires.
Widodo urged efforts to stop the blazes including setting up fire prevention task forces. He told a meeting of ministers and senior officials: "It is only January but it is already looking dry, therefore we cannot be careless."
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|