Mitigating Forest and Area Fire Risks

Palm Oil Magazine
Doc. Palmoilmagazine / Edi Suhardi, Sustainable Palm Oil Analyst .

PALMOILMAGAZINE, JAKARTA – The forecast delivered by Geophysics, Climatology, and Meteorology Agency mentioned that there would be extreme El Nino in the second semester this year. It raised worry that fire in the forest and area would happen again just it was in 2015 that extinguish 2,6 million hectares areas in Sumatera and Kalimantan.

The World Bank also predicted the fire in 2015 delivered losses that reached up to US$16 billion in forestry, agriculture, tourism, and other industries in Indonesia. The smoke made breathing issues and other diseases for hundred thousand people in many countries. According to a research, more than 10o thousand men died earlier.

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Though some meteorology experts in Australia said that El Nino would not be as hot as it was in 2015, the long dry would dry vegetation and be easily to burn that quickly spreads.

That is why, the 2015 frightful accident should be a warning for the central and regional governments, big plantation companies, and the people themselves to cooperate, prevent, detect, and mitigate the fire.

Also Read : Indonesia Deforestation Decreasing in 2021 – 2022 Needs Further Investigation

The other big question is that how much ready are the big palm oil plantation companies in Sumatera, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi to avoid emergency situation, like the 2015 fire?

Though the regulation has been published closely that plantation companies should restore degraded peat, the next questions are that, how effective is the regulation in the field? Have big companies, particularly that operate in peat where it is vulnerable of fire, develop integrated fire management system with the tool and technology support, and personal skill to extinguish the fire? Would they operate wider network from fire monitoring posts and tower, land patrol, and water pump?

It is very significant for palm oil plantation companies to solve the threat of fire in the forest and areas around their concession areas. Anticipative ways would escalate preparedness and awareness to face potential threat of fire is the obligation in every location namely in the vulnerable ones, such as, in peat and or the region next to the villagers that still do traditional agriculture.

The strong commitment from the companies to invest and be aware to fire prevention are the needs because fire threat would deliver serious impacts, not only in legal and companies’ reputation, but also the loss of financial issue, health risks both for the workers and the people. It is also important for palm oil plantation companies to develop and prevent the fire in the forest and area.

Also Read : Canada’s wildfires a reminder of the need for common climate action

Determination to prevent the fire should be encouraged by the planters and stakeholders about accountability to realize from palm oil producers.

The spread of satellite technology use, it would be easy for governments, organizations, and non-government organizations to monitor hotspot everywhere, including in palm oil concession areas. Consumers and palm oil markets have been in partnership with many organizations to monitor fire in the forests and areas by the help of satellite and deliver warning when a hotspot is detected in plantations and around.

Palm oil industries also develop heading to modern management system and commit to principles of sustainability, including that has something to do with fire prevention and smoke, such as written and regulated in integrated fire prevention system guidelines in Indonesian Palm Oil Association (IPOA) in 2020.

IPOA obliges its members to adopt and obey fire prevention system guidelines that contains the way to prevent, mitigate, extinguish the fire, and rehabilitate ‘what was burned’ if the fire happened. The will of IPOA members to minimize fire threat also covers their commitment on zero burning – principles in which other principles of sustainability also support.

The guidelines regulate internal procedures in (each) company and external with the people, the government, and organizes public campaigns in the forms of trainings, awareness on the danger of fire which was delivered to the local people and government.

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But palm oil plantation companies should not develop ‘wall’ around their concession areas by making monitoring equipment, detector, fire extinguisher and maintain emergency team of their own. Fire prevention system that they develop would not be effective without having good cooperation with local government and the people. That is why since the beginning, they (the companies) should deliver education and empower the people themselves.

Though the industries have strong commitment, the fire threat would remain high because according to the history, the fire in the forests in dry season mostly happened for some combination factors, such as, cutting off and fire for subsistence agriculture, new planting by bad companies and people’s plantation traditionally. Unintentional fire, let us say, the people’s daily habit, such as, throwing stick of cigarette or fire from stove, should not happen.

It is significant for the government and other related stakeholders to divert fire prevention from the focus on big palm oil plantation companies that proved their commitment of sustainability to the factor that actually caused the fire, which is, the small-scale and independent smallholders’ plantations, and the fire to prevent areas (simple mechanism with no fire, develop multi – side action and mitigation to fire threat.

By: Edi Suhardi/Sustainable Palm Oil Analyst

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