Forest fires widespread in Kalimantan
Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Thu, 09/03/2009 8:28 PM | National
Fires have continued to raze thousands of hectares of forest across Kalimantan for the last two weeks, causing air pollution and prompting repeated closures of airports particularly in Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.
The government said the cloud-seeding techniques conducted by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) to help douse the fires had failed.
"Forest fires in Kalimantan remain alarming as they have been going on for two weeks and the number of hot spots is still high," deputy assistant to the environment minister for forest and land destruction, Heddy Mukna, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Senior government officials will hold an "urgent" meeting in the Central Kalimantan capital of Palangkaraya on Friday to discuss measures to fight the fires.
Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar visited Palangkaraya last week to hand over water pumps to help the local government stop the fires.
The Forestry Ministry said the fires had affected 573 hectares of land in Palangkaraya in the last three days.
To curb forest fires, Central Kalimantan Governor Teras Narang has revoked a bylaw that
allows local people to clear land by burning. Burning is only permitted for land less than two hectares in size.
Teras warned he would rescind permits awarded to dozens of plantation owners in the province if they continued clearing their land by burning.