The 18th Annual Asian Games in Palembang ran without any significant disruptions, despite concerns about haze due to...
Responding to Forest and Land Fires during the Asian Games
By Pantau Gambut
The 18th Annual Asian Games in Palembang ran without any significant disruptions, despite concerns about haze due to forest and land fires. The absence of haze disruptions was the result of cooperation between various squads and task units assigned to handle fires in the region, including the National Agency for Disaster Response (BNPB), BPBD, Manggala Agni Fire Brigades, Indonesian National Armed Forces, and Indonesian National Police.
Despite the low level of disruption, Pantau Gambut noted several key considerations:
1. The government pledge to ensure a fire-free Asian Games was not achieved
During the Asian Games, there were fewer hot spots in South Sumatra than other provinces. Nevertheless, forest and land fires occurred in several locations, including Jakabaring, just next to the Asian Games Athlete Village.
On the ground, air patrols extinguished fires in several areas. BPBD data for the period of the Asian Games (20 August – 2 September 2018) reveals forest and land fires in seven regions across Sumatra: Omegan Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI), Banyuasin, Ogan Ilir, Muara Enim, Musi Banyuasin, Palembang, Ogan Komering Ulu Timur.
Of these seven regions, four are regencies with peat hydrological areas (KHGs) included in the 2-million-hectare peatland restoration priority area. These include Banyuasin, Muara Enim, Musi Banyuasin, and OKI.
The following table details the locations of forest and land fires identified by air patrols from 20 August – 2 September.
Based on South Sumatra BPBD data, several of these locations suffered from intense fires. In these areas, aerial firefighting (water bombing) only reduced the fire, and firefighting continued over multiple days.
The coordination involved in forest and land fire response in South Sumatra during the Asian Games is a positive example. However, this was only a temporary fix. This coordination needs to be sustained even in the absence of important events like the Asian Games, particularly because Indonesia is still in the peak of dry season.
2. Several fires were in peatland areas
Land task units, according to South Sumatra BPBD data, found several fires in peatland areas, including:
- Senda Mukti, Rimau Island, Banyuasin regency
- Timbangan Village, Ogan Ilir regency
- Sungai Rambutan Village, Ogan Ilir regency
3. The post-Asian Games fire response plan is not yet clear
To date, it has not been confirmed whether the task units assigned to South Sumatra will continue to conduct patrols and fire response socialization programs in fire-prone areas. Pulling these units out of South Sumatra will impact forest and land fire response in the province.
As of 3 September, two units have been withdrawn from the operation in South Sumatra: the fire response task unit of the Criminal Investigation Agency (Bareskrim) of the Indonesian National Police and one helicopter unit from BNPB, which returned to Jakarta. Bareskrim plays an important role in fire response in South Sumatra, especially in terms of law enforcement.
To combat fires in South Sumatra during the Asian Games, BNPB sent 11 helicopter units to conduct air patrols. There were also three private helicopter units and two from the Indonesian National Armed Forces.
4. Law enforcement still needs to continue
As of 2 September 2018, the last day of the Asian Games, there were five active cases, four involving individuals and one involving a corporation. Four suspects have been established in these cases.
Based on the South Sumatra BPBD report, security forces has shared some information regarding the raids on individuals suspected of causing forest fires. Unfortunately, the same transparency has not been extended in cases that involves corporations.