Exacerbated by dryer than usual weather from the current El Nino cycle, forests in Riau have been aflame since late February and the situation is now at a critical point. Consequently, on Tuesday, the Indonesian government has declared a state of emergency in the Riau province according to Reuters. A government official speaking to Reuters, says that around 500 military and police personnel were deployed along with a water-bombing helicopter to put out the fires. Smog has spread to the villages in the province but is yet to reach the urban areas.
Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) identified 69 hotspot areas in Riau, Acheh, North Sumatra, East and North Kalimantan, Papua and South Sulawesi earlier in February and President Joko Widodo is urging authorities to contain the fires and prevent them from spreading.
Whether the relevant authorities will be able to contain and put out the fires are another issue altogether. Fire is used as a cheap and quick means of clearing the land but the lack of rain or moisture means that these fires can get out of hand very quickly.
Just last year, the forest fires in Indonesia caused dangerous levels of haze within the country as well as in surrounding countries, including Malaysia. In the past, Indonesia’s efforts, and collaborations with neighbouring countries, to curb these fires have not made much of a difference at all.
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