INDONESIA’S third-largest province has declared a state of emergency after identifying more than 700 fires, as the South-East Asian nation braces for its annual fire season.
The declaration yesterday comes as Indonesia scales back protection for some of the world’s most important tropical forests.
The team that identifies fires and helps put them out has seen its budget halved due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, an environment ministry official said last month.
The province of Central Kalimantan said the state of emergency would run until Sept 28.
The level of emergency is at the first “alert” stage, which calls for increased patrols and early extinguishing efforts.
“Efforts to mitigate forest fires are currently underway because almost every region in Central Kalimantan enters the dry season this month, ” said Alpius Patanan, an official with Central Kalimantan’s disaster mitigation agency.
Kiki Taufik, who is head of the Greenpeace forests campaign in Indonesia, said the budget cuts could result in more dangerous fires and communities left to fight them on their own.
“Fire hot spots could potentially be bigger and spread to remote peat land areas, especially in the burned areas from 2019 that are not yet restored, ” said Taufik.
“And the haze could be potentially thicker or similar to last year.” — Reuters
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