August 12, 2016 – Indonesian President Joko Widodo has reminded members of his cabinet that efforts to tackle forest fires in the country should be done expeditiously and effectively.
“I wish to bring to your attention that there are still 217 hotspots that should be monitored in Indonesia. I hope that quick measures in prevention and handling (of the forest fires) are done in a timely and effective manner,” online news portal detik.com reported Mr Widodo as saying at a meeting at the President’s Office on Friday (Aug 12).
Cabinet members present included Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto, and Health Minister Nila Moeloek.
Mr Widodo urged cabinet members not to let the number of hotspots increase, saying they will be difficult to quell when they grow to the thousands.
Still, he noted there has been a significant drop in forest fires compared to last year. “The report which I’ve received is very good. There has been a significant, 74 per cent reduction,” said Mr Widodo.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said that air quality has also improved. Readings for the air pollution standards index in Sumatra and Kalimantan are at moderate to good levels, the agency said. Visibility in many areas is also normal and has not disrupted activities in schools and flights at the airports.
However, the agency cautioned that based on past data, the forest fire hotspots usually peak from September to October. In anticipation of this, five provinces in Indonesia have been placed on emergency alert: Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan. Riau province has been on alert since March this year and this will continue to be so until the end of November.
The five provinces were the worst-hit by forest fires last year, which blanketed parts of Indonesia and the region.