PEKANBARU: Four provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan have declared alert status in anticipation of forest fires and potential haze problems. The latest province to declare the status was Central Kalimantan on Tuesday.
Forest and land fires have begun to threaten areas on or near the equator following an increase in hotspots in recent weeks.
South Sumatra, which will host the 2018 Asian Games in August in its capital of Palembang, announced the alert status on Feb. 1. It will last until October. Riau, a province that is prone to forest and peatland fires that could spread haze to nearby regions like Palembang, declared its alert status on Monday. West Kalimantan, meanwhile, set its alert status from January to December.
“The enforcement of alert statuses will help bring better coordination in handling forest fires, including in deploying personnel and logistics, as well as in disbursing funds. It will also help the central government [to assist local administrations],” National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Wednesday.
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) recorded the presence of 90 hotspots this year, 23 of which were in West Kalimantan, 12 in Central Kalimantan, nine in Riau and one in South Sumatra.
Meanwhile, forest fires razed five areas in West Kalimantan, three in Central Kalimantan and one in Riau this year.
Haze has also started to affect Rokan Hilir and Kampar — regencies in Riau — with the air pollution standard index reaching moderate levels of 54 and 51, respectively, said Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency head Edwar Sanger. The air quality is considered good if the level is below 50.