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Cablegate: Indonesia - Haze Season Underway Again

VZCZCXRO6263
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #0043/01 2212338
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 092338Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8532
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR 2089
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 9965
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 9819
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 3573

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 010043

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, OES/IET, AND OES/ETC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV KTIA TPHY TBIO ECON ID
SUBJECT: INDONESIA - HAZE SEASON UNDERWAY AGAIN

REF: A) 05 JAKARTA 10673, B) 05 JAKARTA 09022

1. (SBU) Summary. Fires burning in Sumatra and Kalimantan
have sent haze once again throughout the region. Haze
problems reached alarming levels in late July, with the
Indonesian press reporting over 2,000 hot spots on Sumatra
island and another 1,000 hot spots in Kalimantan during the
week of July 24. While local authorities in the provinces
of Riau and West Kalimantan have told us that rain showers
have cleared the air recently, large numbers of hot spots
remain. On August 8, Ministry of Finance (MOF)-Japan
International Cooperation Agency (JICA) data revealed 699
hotspots in Sumatra and 957 in Kalimantan. Although the
Government of Indonesia (GOI) has stepped up prevention
efforts in recent years, progress is slow and annual haze
production is expected to remain high until the end of the
dry season in October. In an effort to crack down on fire
perpetrators this year, the Riau provincial administration
is moving to seize land that has been cleared by burning.
End summary.

Haze Production a Recurring Problem
-----------------------------------

2. (U) As our colleagues in Malaysia are painfully aware,
forest and peat fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, and the
resultant haze (particulate pollution) which spreads to
neighboring countries, are an annual problem during the dry
season which lasts approximately from April through October.
According to media reports, the Ministry of Forestry was
tracking over 2,000 hot spots in Sumatra and another 1,000
hot spots in Kalimantan during the week of July 24. On July
29, satellite images detected over 130 hot spots in Riau
province alone.

3. (U) The fires are due to land clearing in forest areas
for plantations and shifting cultivation practices by small
scale farmers. The fires burned more than 3,000 hectares in
Riau, including 1,500 hectares of the Mahato-Rokan Hulu
protected forest and Tesso Nilo National Park. While
rainfall extinguished some fires in early August, the number
of hotspots remains high. On August 7, NOAA satellite data
reported by MOF-JICA revealed 406 hotspots in Sumatra and
934 hotspots in Kalimantan, the majority of which were in
West Kalimantan. The same data revealed 90 hotspots in
Sabah, the Malaysian section of Borneo.

4. (U) The spillover of haze from Indonesia to surrounding
areas has raised criticism from neighboring countries.
Malaysia and Thailand both complained about the increase in
haze from Indonesia in recent weeks. Malaysia's
Meteorological Service reported that the air pollution was
near unhealthy levels -- over 100 particles per microgram
(ppm) -- in southern ports and areas near the capital city
as a result of the haze, while health officials in southern
Thailand advised vulnerable residents to stay inside.

Government Prevention Efforts Have Limited Impact
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (SBU) Each year, the GOI announces stronger measures and
new programs to combat this problem but with minimal
success. Although the GOI has urged local governments to
take firm steps to prevent forest and peat fires and has
created a legal framework for forest and land fire
management, large numbers of fires continue to emerge. Slow
progress is the result of resource constraints at the local
level and the GOI's weak track record in prosecuting and
convicting companies and small scale farmers for using
burning to clear farmland and forest concessions.

6. (SBU) Most recently, President Yudhoyono instructed
governors, regents, and heads of related regional
institutions to take concrete action to stop smoke haze from
spreading to neighboring countries at a June fire prevention
conference. The GOI is also cooperating with the Malaysian
government to crackdown on plantation firms that use burning
to clear land. (Note: Many Malaysian plantation companies
operate in Sumatra and Kalimantan. End Note.) In recent
years the GOI has undertaken additional central measures
that include the formation of fire combating groups
(Manggala Agni) and operational centers (posko); activation
of fire prevention and management centers (Pusdalkarhutla);
and the adoption of an internationally recognized "Fire
Danger Rating System". However, because the GOI provides
mostly regulatory assistance and information support to

JAKARTA 00010043 002 OF 002


local governments, local authorities are required to fund
their own efforts to combat fires. This policy has resulted
in the use of methods, such as water spray, injections, and
digging ditches for containment, that have proven
ineffective in stopping large fires in remote and large peat
areas.

7. (U) Local organizations have taken some positive steps
this year. All Sumatra and Kalimantan governors signed an
MOU on forest and land fire prevention in June. The
Regional Environmental Impact Management Agency (BAPEDALDA)
conducted fire prevention and fire combat training with
local farmers and local companies, and distributed water
pumps to nine subdistricts, one NGO and six regencies this
year.

8. (U) In order to investigate perpetrators and send a
deterrent signal, the provincial government of Riau also is
moving to seize lands that have been cleared by burning.
After seizing the land, authorities will be able to track
the financiers who are behind the burning. Riau Governor
Ruslie Zainal said on July 31, "We will set up police lines
in the affected areas to aid the investigations." He noted
his officials will use air surveillance to take photos of
the burned areas. "We are going to hunt down the
perpetrators and punish them, be they financial backers or
land owners."

PASCOE

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