CNA – In a reminder of a warning he made seven years ago, Indonesian President Joko Widodo yesterday again warned the police that they should prevent large fires from spreading during the upcoming dry season, or they will be dismissed from the force. This is in anticipation of El Nino – or dry weather phase – that is projected to occur across Indonesia soon.
If large fires were to occur, Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, warned that the local police chiefs of the province or region will be sacked.
“I repeat my promise from seven years ago that is still valid now. If there is a big fire in the province, the regional commander, regional police chiefs… are responsible,” Jokowi was quoted as saying by CNBC Indonesia.
He added, “Be careful. I’m just saying be careful, the agreement is still valid.”
Jokowi made the comments during a meeting with law enforcement officials yesterday.
In 2016, the Jakarta Globe reported then that the president had threatened the jobs of police and military officials if they failed to prevent forest and land fires from recurring that year.
State news agency Antara also reported in 2018 that the president made similar comments.
“If there is a fire in your area and it’s not handled well, the policy remains the same: You will be fired,” he said to participants of the National Coordination Meeting on Forest and Land Fire Control that year. Indonesia weather agency predicts dry 2023, warns of forest fire risks.
Earlier this week, Indonesian authorities said they will use “weather modification technology” to produce artificial rain over dry peatland as a preventative measure against potential forest fires.
Local media had previously reported that the weather modification technology, known formerly as artificial rain technology, creates rain that helps to put out fires.
It is carried out by seeding cumulonimbus clouds with sodium chloride to cause immediate condensation and rain, state news agency Antara reported.
And last month, Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar warned that stern action will be taken against firms that are found to have caused forest fires in the country.
Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has forecasted that the risk of forest fires will rise when Indonesia enters the dry season starting April until May this year.
It added that this will be the driest weather since 2019 due to the weakening of the La Nina pattern.
The BMKG also predicted an increase in forest fires this year, similar to that in 2019 when 1.64 million hectares of land were affected by fires. In comparison, 204,896 hectares and 358,864 hectares were affected in 2022 and 2021.
The potential for fires is reportedly spread across the six provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and Papua.
Southeast Asia is regularly beset with bouts of haze. During the 2019 Southeast Asian haze, thousands of fires were started in Indonesia in order to clear land for crops.
Media reports stated that some 900,000 Indonesians reported suffering from acute respiratory infections as a result of the haze.