Indonesian President Joko Widodo has asked regional heads as well as military and police officers down to the lowest level, including religious and public figures, to monitor possible bigger forest and bush fires in their respective areas.
"Don't let the fires get bigger, don't be late so it's hard to control. This is important," Widodo said on Feb. 22 at the national coordination meeting for forest and land fire control in 2021.
The head of state reminded that once the fire spreads further, the loss is not only millions or billions, but it could be trillions of rupiahs, not to mention damages of ecology and ecosystem.
President Widodo also hoped that there is no need to water the forest and bush fires using helicopters, and instead regional heads and field officers were asked to prioritize preventive efforts.
"This means that if there is a small fire in a village, it is immediately notified so that it can be handled in advance as when it is already big, it will be difficult to extinguish," the president said, adding that all parties must be mobilized for early detection and monitoring in areas prone to hotspots.
Widodo also keeps abreast of several areas that have been hit by forest and land fires since the end of January, such as those in Riau and West Kalimantan provinces.
Quoting the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), he said the La Nina phenomenon was expected to occur until the first semester of 2021, and then, in May there would be a transition from the rainy season to the dry season.
In February, forest and bush fires have the potential to occur on the island of Sumatra because the hot season has already occurred on the island, and then in Kalimantan and Sulawesi islands, forest and bush fires are estimated to occur in May to July. Meanwhile, the peak of forest and bush fires are predicted to happen in August and September.
The president likewise called for law enforcement against forest and bush fires, without compromise.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD said the government has been ready to cope with and face forest and bush fires if they occur in 2021.
He also asked all parties to raise awareness and take preventive measures in the face of the dry season.
In 2020, the areas of forest and bush fires were recorded at 296,942 hectares, and this figure was much smaller than that in 2015, namely 2.61 million hectares, he noted.
In addition to forest and bush fires, transboundary haze pollution has also decreased since 2015, he said, adding that even in 2018 and 2020 there was no smoke pollution.
He said in the handling and prevention of forest and bush fires, synergy between the central government and the regions is needed, and law enforcement against forest burning perpetrators have to be strictly applied.
Meanwhile, a number of areas in the country have been declared alert status against forest and bush fires including those in Central Kalimantan province, West Kalimantan province, West Sumatra province and Riau province.
Deputy of Kotawaringin Barat district head, Central Kalimantan, Ahmadi Riansyah, is among regional officials stating that they have set the alert status for forest and bush fires from February 2021 for the next three months.
"A local disaster mitigation agency has reported, there has been an increase in the number of hotspots in this area. So, we set the forest and bush fire alert status," he said.
The Pontianak city administration, West Kalimantan province, has set the alert status for forest and bush fires as the forest and bush fires have occurred in a number of locations that have started to cause haze in the city.
Pontianak's mayor Edi Rusdi Kamtono said on Thursday that his party is currently forming a task force for the prevention and control of forest and bush fires in the city.
West Kalimantan's Governor Sutarmidji said that he already has 57 names of owners whose areas have been on fires and would impose sanctions on them who have burned bushes on their lands. -Xinhua