- Working on Fire’s managing director for Asia-Pacific expressed confidence fires on APP supplier concessions could be extinguished soon.
- The South African program has hundreds of additional firefighters on standby.
- An NGO said it had seen more sightings of raptors over East Java after a slow October migration east.
A day after the government of Singapore issued its strongest rebuke yet on Southeast Asia’s pollution crisis, the largest pulpwood concession holder in Sumatra, Asia Pulp & Paper, announced it had brought in firefighting specialists from a government-funded program in South Africa.
“This the first work that WoF is doing in Indonesia and also for APP,” Working on Fire told Mongabay. “While we have been in discussions with Indonesian government and forestry stakeholders, including APP for some months, the current deployments were raised two weeks ago.”
APP says it has around 2,900 firefighters at its disposal. WoF has deployed 50 specialist firefighters and 12 “incident command” staff in two teams. The teams will be led by Australian national Mike Cantelo and South African national Trevor Wilson.
“Conventional suppression tactics do not work in these conditions,” Leon Conradie, WoF’s managing director for Asia-Pacific, said in a statement. “I am confident that we can have the fires on APP suppliers’ concessions in South Sumatra contained in a matter of days. After that, mopping up operations can start to deal with the areas of burning peat.”
The company told Mongabay it could scale up its operations in Indonesia if requested.
“We have 50 more firefighters on standby for immediate deployment and a further 200 at a weeks’ notice,” WoF said. “We employ over 7,500 specialist wild land firefighters and will be able to send more to Indonesia than currently planned if the need arises.”
In neighboring Jambi province, investigative magazine Tempo reports a lack of clarity over jurisdiction could be holding up the effort to take action against companies. Authorities in Jambi were at the time of writing pursuing 28 cases involving 32 suspects.
“Administrative sanctions or suspending companies from operating lies with the investigating authorities,” said Budi Dayu, the head of the provincial plantation agency.
A spokesman for the Jambi Police said this was not the police’s view.
“We are only in charge of enforcing the law,” Kuswahyudi Tresnadi said.
Signs of resumed migration
As haze continued to moderate on Thursday an environmental NGO said it was beginning to see more birds of prey migrating following long haze-related delays.
Twice every year millions of birds use the East Asia-Australasia flyway to migrate to warmer weather. The birds use a complex mix of intuition with electromagnetic and astronomical signs to navigate the biannual long haul.
Climate change and development are threatening these migratory patterns, however, with factors spanning infrastructure development to light pollution affecting birds’ ability to navigate these ancient routes.
“They’ve been distracted while crossing Indonesia,” said Rosek Nursahid, chairman of ProFauna Indonesia.
The year’s latter migration usually peaks in October. Instead the birds have been held up, often unable to see the stars, and frequently finding food scarcer, while Southeast Asia’s skies have been blanketed in smog.
ProFauna says signs are now that a greater number of raptors such as the Jerdon’s baza (Aviceda jerdoni) and black kite (Milvus migrans) are pushing east.
“Yesterday we saw 70-100 [birds],” Rosek said, commenting on sightings of raptors in the East Java city of Malang on their way east to East Nusa Tenggara.
Air pollution levels continue to remain within moderate levels in Indonesia but the archipelago’s meteorology agency said the number of hotspots on Thursday increased in Bangka-Belitung, a mining province in the Java Sea.