VP Boediono warns of larger risk of forest fires

 Indonesian vice president Boediono has warned of a larger risk of forest fires in the country due to a possible intense and longer drought caused by the El Nino phenomena.

“We must reduce the risk of forest fires. I appeal to all levels of the government to agree on action plans for a more coordinated and effective effort to prevent them,” he said when opening a meeting on the prevention and mitigation of forest fires at his office here on Thursday.

The meeting was attended by forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan, defense forces commander General Moeldoko, Attorney General Basrief Arief, deputy National Police chief Badrodin Haiti, deputy minister of agriculture Rusman Heriawan, chief of the Presidential Working Unit for Development Supervision and Control (UKP4) Kuntoro Mangkusubroto and chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Syamsul Maarif.

Boediono said every year, especially at the peak of the dry season, Indonesia is busy overcoming forest fires. While they are costly, uncontrolled forest fires can also tarnish Indonesia’s image before its neighbors as the smoke from the fires affect those countries.

He said several factors had made him give special attention to the issue, including the possibility of the El Nino weather phenomenon.

He said although peak of the drought has not occurred, hot spots have already been detected in several locations.

According to the UKP4 data, a total of 8,400 hotspots were detected in licensed forest concession areas in Riau province in the period of January-June.

In view of that, he has emphasized the importance of taking law enforcement actions.

“Law enforcement in the field is important for a deterrent effect,” he said, adding the government will not like to be burdened with extinguishing forest fires every year and waste trillions of rupiah in the budget.

The Riau provinces regional police command had received 70 reports of forest fire cases, out of which 55 was investigated for the judicial process with 116 suspects and seven suspects still at large.

“What is encouraging is that police officers have also tackled the intellectual actors,” Kuntoro said.

Meanwhile, Zulkifli Hasan said Riau was the most vulnerable and therefore he will continue the assignment of the team that had so far been tasked with overcoming forest fires in the province, although the size of fires currently was smaller.

“They must go for patrol every day, with two helicopters standing by. Soon after a fire occurs, the team will immediately handle it and if violations are detected suspects will be arrested,” he added.

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