PALEMBANG – After the massive forest and land fires in 2015, President Joko Widodo has consistently emphasized the importance of prioritizing prevention aspects in mitigating forest and land fires as well as improving multi-stakeholder synergy, especially across fire-prone areas.
One of the prevention methods in an early stage is through the Weather Modification Technology (TMC), especially on land and peatlands with high potential of fire amidst the threat of hotspots spreading across South Sumatra-Jambi.
In Sumatra, parts of the Provinces of South Sumatra (Sumsel) and Jambi are areas that are prone to forest and land fires, given the vast peatlands area that are fire-prone in the times of drought.
To demonstarte supports towards the TMC implementation, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), supported by various agencies and stakeholders, was also present at the Opening of TMC Activities in Sumsel and Jambi, taking place at the Sri Mulyono Herlambang Air Base, Palembang, Monday (23/5/2022) morning.
The event was attended by representatives from the Indonesian Air Force (AU), the South Sumatra-Jambi Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD), the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), the Sumatran Center for Climate Change and Forest and Land Fire Control (PPIKHL), the Indonesian Association of Forestry Business (APHI), as well as APP Sinar Mas and its business units.
The Director of Forest and Land Fire Control (PKHL), represented by the Head of the Center for Climate Change and Forest and Land Fire Control (PPIKHL) for the Sumatra Region, Ferdian Krisnanto, in his remarks revealed that the area of fires in South Sumatra had increased compared to the previous year within January-April period.
“This year, the occurrence of forest and land fires in South Sumatra is a slightly unique because it started from Muratara, OKU, and Pali. We have anticipated that there will be no forest and land fires, as well as efforts to extinguish the fire at the fire location. In Riau, TMC operations have started since last month with an additional 15 percent of rainfall," said Ferdi.
In addition to conducting TMC from the air, Ferdian said, land control must also be strengthened by ensuring that the peat and peat water remain wet and moist moreover at this time where a potential for rain still exists.
Ferdi explained, starting in 2020 the TMC operation was made one of the permanent solutions to prevent forest and land fires apart from patrols and community economic empowerment. The TMC operation is carried out with the aim of wetting the peatlands to maintain moisture, keeping the water level stable so that it does not burn easily.
"The TMC operation is also carried out to fill canals, ponds and retention ponds in the area to prevent fires, especially on peatlands which often experience fires every year," Ferdian said.
“The TMC operation is planned to be rolled out for 15 days with the support of PT. Wirakarya Sakti (Sinar Mas Forestry). Today we have started and proceeded well so hopefully we will get the best and useful results," Ferdian concluded.
Meanwhile, the Head of the South Sumatra BPBD, Iriansyah, stated that South Sumatra was an area prone to forest and land fires. There is an area of peatland in South Sumatra, especially in Ogan Ilir (OKI), Ogan Ilir (OI), Musi Banyuasin (Muba), Banyuasin and several other districts that have the potential to burn.
Reflecting on events in 2015, forest and land fires have become a national and international issue, mainly because of the smog. President Joko Widodo therefore instructed all relevant parties to prevent forest and land fires, one of which was by wetting the land.
“If the land is small, it is easy to wet them. But when the size is larger, then TMC is needed to wet such area and this would require cooperation with all parties. TMC is very much needed for wetting the land, especially peat. If the peat is burning and it is difficult to water, it will be a hassle to enter the blackout. Early wetting is therefore needed," he said, during a preparation meeting for the South Sumatra-Jambi TMC.
If forest and land fires occur in South Sumatra, it will become a national threat. As such, Iriansyah stated that BPBD is grateful for the help from the Governor of South Sumatra Herman Deru, who has set the Karhutla Emergency Alert status, as of April 19, 2022 to November 30, 2022.
Head of BPBD Jambi Bachyuni Deliansyah also added that the prevention and handling of forest and land fires in Jambi Province is also a serious concern from his side and the local government. Moreover, there are a lot of peatlands that are still being monitored, so that there is no drought so that there is a high potential for fires to occur.
“The TMC operation is indeed the best solution in early prevention of forest and land fires. If it has burned, especially in peatland areas, it will be difficult to be extinguished. Therefore, there must be an initial wetting. If a fire occurs later, it will not spread to peatlands," he said.
He also feels the cooperation of all involved parties have been done effortfully. Over the last two years, good collaboration between all agencies and stakeholders has made the number of forest and land fires in Jambi to be kept to a minimum.
Supports from APP Sinar Mas
TMC operations for early prevention of forest and land fires, especially on peatlands in South Sumatra-Jambi are also supported by APP Sinar Mas, through its business unit PT Wirakarya Sakti (WKS). In the last two years, APP Sinar Mas-WKS has contributed to the operation of TMC, so that the number of hotspots in South Sumatra-Jambi can be minimized.
Director of PT WKS Agus Wahyudi expressed his appreciation for the government agencies, namely KLHK, BRIN, BNPB and other related agencies, for inviting them to jointly implement the TMC in South Sumatra-Jambi in 2022.
In addition to the TMC, APP Sinar Mas and its business units, continue to be committed to making efforts to prevent forest and land fires, both inside and outside the company's area. A few of which are preparing the human resources, facilities and infrastructure, as well as the Desa Makmur Peduli Api (DMPA) program.
"On the field, we are supporting TMC in South Sumatra-Jambi and we will provide actual data and information in the field which can be obtained around our area. Partners in South Sumatra-Jambi are ready to support all the data needed. The TMC will be held for 15 days and it is set to begin on Tuesday (24/5/2022)," he said.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of APHI, Purwadi Soeprihanto, said that all parties must work hard to minimize and prevent forest and land fires in 2022. He also thanked APP Sinar Mas for the support over the past two years for actively participating in TMC activities, especially in provinces that are prone to forest and land fires; South Sumatra, Jambi and Riau.
“The support from APP Sinar Mas-PT WKS in recent years is part of the contribution of the forestry business sector, in the context of controlling and preventing forest and land fires. Through multi-party collaborations, hotspots have fallen quite sharply in the past two years and the level of wetness of peat is high,” Purwadi said.
South Sumatra and Jambi are provinces with a fairly significant area of peat, hence all efforts to increase peat wetness are strategically important in minimizing forest and land fires.