Indonesia: Forest and Land Fires in 6 provinces in Borneo and Sumatra Island - Information bulletin no. 1

The situation

According to the latest report (17 September 2019) from the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana or BNPB) there are 2,719 hotspots in six provinces mainly in Kalimantan and Sumatera Islands. From January to August 2019, 328,724 Ha of land have been burnt by the fire. Most of the burnt land located in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatera, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. As of today, based from various media report, smokes from the forest fire degrades air quality in the area and acute respiratory infection cases increasing each day. All of the six heavily affected provinces declared a state of emergency in various time period starting from February to December 2019, but this is still subject to change. Moreover, since the wind blowing from south to north of Indonesia, smokes have reached Singapore and Sarawak (Malaysia) and are affecting their air quality and visibility.

Responding to the disaster, BNPB has been mobilizing 34 water bombing helicopters plus 10 patrol helicopter, more than 9,000 personnel and 270 million liters of water dropped to put out the fire. The president of Indonesia instructed related ministries, agencies and military to effectively reduce and responding to the disaster and underline the importance to mitigate new hotspot occurrence. Please refer below for more detailed forest and land information in Indonesia.

Forest and land fire in Kalimantan Island

Based on the Indonesian Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency’s (Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi dan Geofisika or BMKG) satellite surveillance, there are 346 Hotspots in West Kalimantan (as per 18 September 2019), with a total burnt land of 25,900 Ha during the last six months. Several schools in three districts (North Kayon, Ketapang, and Sintang) have been temporarily shut down.

The air condition in West Kalimantan has started to get dusty and the thick smog has reduced visibility. It has been reported that there's a decreasing quality of clean water in ways that it started to taste salty. In addition, people have suffered from Respiratory Tract Infection and diphtheria. The smog also has caused the cancellation of flights and prevented fishermen from going fishing. West Kalimantan has declared state of emergency from February 2019 until 31 December 2019.

Furthermore, there are 281 hotspots in Central Kalimantan (as per 18 September 2019) with a total of 44,768 Ha of burnt land during the last five months. Education Authorities in Central Kalimantan has released an official letter to high-schools (SMK, SMA and SLB) requesting the limitation and change of school hours, where each subject is limited to only 30-35 minutes long.

In South Kalimantan 105 hotspots were identified in the area and burnt 19,490 Ha during the last four months. The local disaster management agency has determined the status of emergency alert for forest and land fires in seven districts/cities (Banjar, Tanah Laut, Balangan, Hulu Sungai Selatan, Tanah Bumbu, Kota Banjarbaru and Tapin district). The thick smog has been disrupting the flights at Syamsudin Noor Airport in Banjarmasin.

According to local disaster management agency, 99% of 53 cases of land fires in South Kalimantan were caused by human activities.

Forest and land fire in Sumatera Island

In South Sumatera province 482 hotspots were identified in the area as per today. More than 11,000 Ha land has been burnt by the fire for the last six months. State of emergency has been declared from 6 March 2019 – 31 October 2019. Moreover, seven water bombing helicopters operating in the area with additional two patrol helicopters mobilized by BNPB. Approximately 36 million liters of water have been dropped on to the hotspots.

Based from BNPB reports, 555 hotspots were identified in Jambi Province as per today. The fire burnt 11,022 Ha land has been burnt by the fire for the last six months. State of emergency has been declared from 22 July 2019 – 20 October 2019. Moreover, three water bombing helicopters operating in the area with additional one patrol helicopter mobilized by BNPB. Approximately eight million liters of water have been dropped on to the hotspots.

In Riau Province, there are 388 hotspots identified in the area as per today. The fire burnt 49,266 Ha land has been burnt by the fire for the last six months. State of emergency has been declared from 22 February 2019 – 31 October 2019. BNPB mobilized seven water bombing helicopters operating in the area with additional one patrol helicopter responding to the fire. Approximately 127 million liters of water have been dropped on to the hotspots.

Immediate needs

Based on initial information from BNPB and PMI Post-Commando, the current immediate needs are reducing respiratory infection, as well as mask distribution and Health promotion to the community.

Red Cross and Red Crescent action

PMI has been on the ground of this event, mobilizing a total of 265 volunteers from affected PMI provincial chapter and branches in Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, Jambi, South Sumatera provinces to distribute more than 500,000 masks, providing smog-free spaces to the communities, health promotion to more than 400 school students, and together with the governmental agencies fight the fire through each local task forces. PMI National Head Quarter has sent 40,000 masks to South and West Kalimantan PMI provincial offices.