11 July 2024

Indonesian authorities said on Monday the number of areas where wildfire could occur has doubled over the past week due to dry weather, raising concerns over widespread forest fires even before the country hits peak dry season.

The number of ‘hotspots’ recorded between July 17 and July 23 surged to 12,701 from 6,082 a week earlier, according to data from Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB).

Most of the increase in hotspots was spotted in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo island, as well as in Java and Papua, said BNPB spokeperson Abdul Muhari.

“Although not all hotspots will turn into fire spots, we still have to be vigilant because of the significant increase that we are seeing,” he said in a virtual briefing.

He highlighted that Indonesia has yet to reach the peak of its dry season, expected between August to early September.

Indonesia’s weather agency has said the country is this year expected to see its most severe dry season since 2019, partially due to the return of the El Niño weather pattern.

Abdul warned people to not leave fires unattended and to report any significant drop in water level in peatland areas. He also said authorities are conducting aerial patrols in six priority provinces.

The Southeast Asian nation experienced devastating forest fires in 2015 and 2019 that blanketed the country and parts of Southeast Asia region with haze. The 2019 fires caused about $5.2 billion of economic losses in the eight Indonesian provinces, according to the World Bank.

By Fransiska Nangoy Reuters