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BALI UPDATE #004 - 06 March 1998
The following press release on EL Nino and the Indonesian
Forest Fires has just been received from the Indonesian Tourism Promotion
Board. Since many people are asking the industry in Bali about the weather
and forest fires, it is in our interest to have an informed understanding
of this phenomenon.
Jakarta, 2 March 1998
Ref No. PRHaze-003/BPPI/III/98
El Nino Remains Unpredictable :
ASEAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS
CALL ON WORLD COMMUNITY TO HELP EXTINGUISH FOREST FIRES
At the close of their meeting in Kuching, Malaysia,
on the 25th February 1998, the ASEAN Environment Ministers called on the
world community to help extinguish bush fires in East Kalimantan (Indonesia)
and Serawak (Malaysia).
The renewed fires in East Kalimantan was the focus
of discussions of the ASEAN Ministers, as they called on member countries
and especially Indonesia and Malaysia to be more active in managing the
fires in accordance with last year's agreement.
Indonesia's Ministers of Environment, Ir. Sarwono
Kusumaatmadja explained that cloud-seeding are planned 2 locations in
East Kalimantan from the airport of Sepinggan at Balikpapan and the airport
of Termindung at Samarida.
As from January 1998, renewed fires have affected
13,325 hectares in East Kalimantan, 2.300 of with are in Kutai National
Park, as well as on the mainland province of Riau in Sumatera.
This is because of the prevailing protracted dry season
in these parts of Indonesia, while other Island including Java, Bali,
South Sumatera and Sulawesi, have already entered the rainy season since
late November last year.
The renewed fires have again affected flights to Sepinggan
airport at Balikpapan. However, since wind direction is now south-westerly,
the fires have not affected neighbouring provinces nor neighbouring countries.
The bush fires are found either along the highways,
or deep in the jungles, even into the Kutai National Park.
Fires along roads can be extinguished by the concerted
efforts of the population, including the armed forces, students and timber
and mining companies.
Those deep in the jungles, are more difficult to
douse, and therefore efforts have been made to extinguish these with water
bombs, or cloud=seeding. Whereas peat fires are the most difficult, since
they smoulder indefinitely underground, need special technology and skills
and only long spells rain will extinguish them completely.
In these difficult economic times, measures taken
with advanced technology are of course a very expensive exercise. Nevertheless
, the Government has allocated an additional Rp. 18 billion for the prevention
and extinguishing of forest fires.
These parts of Indonesia, especially in East Kalimantan
and the Riau province are forecast to remain hot and dry until June 1998.
So what is the weather forecast for the reminder of 1998? AS weather patterns
have altered drastically because of the El Nino phenomenon, experts disagree
on the weather. 50% of experts predict that after June, Indonesia will
again return to its normal weather pattern with a normal rainy season;
35% however, forecast a very wet season and 15% again forecast that there
will be a very dry season after June.
In the meantime, all efforts are being made to warn
the population not to start fires in view of today's very dry season in
these areas. In the other parts of Indonesia, however, the rainy season
has been intermittent between bursts of rainstorms followed by days of
Jakarta, 2 March 1998
Ref No. PRHaze-004/BPPI/III/98
WHAT ARE PEAT-FIRES?
A large part of Kalimantan's soil is peat. A fire
of peat-soil is very difficult to extinguish, because fires are not always
apparent above ground, but smoke will indicate that there are fires below
the surface. These can spread so widely without any fire in sight.
Satellite pictures only show hot spots above fifty
degrees Celsius, therefore many areas with peat soil fires, are not detected
because they are underground and are below fifty degrees Celsius.
At present hot spots monitored by the Singapore Meteorological
Services, number 3 in Kalimantan and 1 In Northern Serawak.
Fires of peat soil can at present only be completely
extinguished by a spell of continuous rains and are difficult to douse
by conventional means.
Destruction of biomass will produce heat and glasshouse
gases which will increase the temperature of the atmosphere.
Burning of Biomass will result in nitrate acid which
causes acid rain. Generated gases will form smoke and haze, which cause
difficulty in breathing and sight.
The dense smoke will affect land, sea and air transportation
and hampers the distribution of food to outlying villages, which can again
In the tropics when long dry months occur, rivers
dry up causing trees and plants to whither and the high temperatures will
cause them to catch fire easily.
Fires which occur in primary forests are limited to
that area alone. The larger the prior damage before fires, the more serious
Experts have determined that in fires occurring in
primary forests, damage has been limited to 11% while in those areas that
have been burned before, damage increases to between 58-88%.
In formerly undisturbed peat soil, fires caused 17%
damage, whereas in previously burnt peat areas this increased to 97%.
Similar effects are also seen in the ecosystem.
Weatherwise, Indonesia has two seasons which are the
dry season, (usually from May through October) and the rainy season (from
October through March) which come with relatively regular patterns.
The El Nino-Southern Oscillation or ENSO, which comes
now and again, however, changes this pattern with varying degrees of intensity.
This year the rainy season has come very late to
the Indonesian Island and has not covered them equally.
Several areas like East Kalimantan, are still suffering
from a long drought, while other areas like East Java and Central Java
are experiencing heavy rains which have caused rivers to flood, which
is again another disaster.
For further information, please contact :
Ir. Tuti Hendrawati MPM
Office to the special Assistant II to the state Minister of Environment
Jl. D.I. Panjaitan, 3rd Floor, Kebon Nanas
Jakarta Timur 13410
Tel : (021) 858 0067 Ext.149
Fax : (021) 858 0101
Mr. Sofjan Jusuf
Director of Research & Development
Indonesia Tourism Promotion Board
Bank Pacific Building 9th Floor
Jl. Jend Sudirman, Kav 8
Tel : (021) 570487 , 5720630
Fax : (021) 5704855
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