New decree enables the use of fire early warning system in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
Halind Ardi, Director, Dept. of Environment
In August 2008, a new regulation was signed by the governor of Central Kalimantan enabling the use of a fire early warning system based on seasonal climate information to prevent uncontrolled peatland fires and help manage degraded peat swamplands. The decree targets farmers at the local level, allowing the use of controlled burning, within strict parameters, to clear land for agriculture. The new policy will see IRI’s work put into practice: provincial government officials will now utilize seasonal climate information, as indicated through IRI’s fire early warning tool, to assess the likelihood of fires and decide whether or not burning should be allowed.
The inclusion of seasonal fire risk information in the new law came following two IRI workshops, held with key government stakeholders, which discussed the forecasting potential. Initially, the regulation referred only to indices of local air pollution to determine whether or not conditions are too dangerous to use fire. However, following the workshops, organized by IRI, IPB and CARE (click here for more info), additional language was included to allow forecasts of seasonal fire risk to be used as well.
Many small farmers and communities have traditionally used controlled burning techniques to clear land, maintain soil fertility, and avoid pests. IRI’s research suggests that in years with normal to above normal rainfall, such fires are less likely to spread widely. But in drier years, such as during the 1997-98 season, uncontrolled fires can spread rapidly in peatland areas. These fires are hard to extinguish, result in major regional health problems and economic losses, and cause substantial greenhouse gas emissions. In response, Indonesia had banned all fire activity, making the lives and livelihoods of many small farmers more difficult.
The new decree aims to provide some relief to small farmers and communities that have struggled under the fire ban by allowing them to use traditional controlled burning techniques, and to ban fire only in “dangerous” conditions. While the new regulation allows communities and farmers to use fire under certain conditions, large plantations are still officially banned from using fire to clear land under Indonesia’s national laws.
IRI, IPB and CARE will continue to work together with the provincial government to support implementation of the new regulation.