Wednesday, 24th September 2014

El Nino`s impact becoming more real

Jumat, 21 Agustus 2009 00:52 WIB | 1.796 Views
(ANTARA/Rosa Panggabean/*)
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - While people in other parts of Indonesia are sound asleep, South Sulawesi villagers have to queue in the dark of night to get clean water from natural springs.

Residents of Mattirotasi and Lainungan villages in Watang Pulu sub district, Sidenreng Rappang (Sidrap) Didstrict, South Sulawesi Province, have been facing a water crisis due to the ongoing El-Nino-induced drought over the past one month.

"Every evening, these villagers have to queue to collect clean water in several water springs in the village, because at noon, there is no water in the springs," Amin, a local resident, said.

In fact, the drought have affected the villages since the past four months, he said. But, the condition has gotten worse since last months as they could not get clean water for cooking purposes, he said.

To anticipate drought caused by the ongoing El Nino phenomenon, the public works ministry has planned to drill more water wells and provide more water pumps for regions outside Java Island.

"The public works ministry`s programs include provision of new deep wells to anticipate El Nino. In 2009, we add some more deep wells and buy new water pumps," Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said in Jakarta on Wednesday (Aug. 19).

Minister Kirmanto, however, quoted information from the meteorological, climatology and geophysics (BMKG) office saying El Nino would not affect Indonesia strongly because this year`s drought would be quite wet.

"We must prepare ourselves for the worst. I have checked all dams, and in fact our dams on Java Island are having better water stock than before," he said.

On the contrary to the ministry`s statement on wet drought this year, the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)`s National Weather Service forecast El Nino would continue to strengthen.

"Expected El Nino impacts during August-October 2009 include enhanced precipitation over the central and west-central Pacific Ocean and the continuation of drier than average conditions over Indonesia," the NOAA statement said in its statement received by ANTARA via e-mail on Aug. 13, 2009.

While there was disagreement on the eventual strength of El Nino, nearly all of the dynamical models predict a moderate-to-strong El Nino during the Northern Hemisphere Winter 2009-2010, NOAA said.

The Indonesian government has made preparations to face the El-Nino causing drought in some parts of Indonesia.

"In order not to disrupt food security, we have therefore adopted, and will continue to adopt measures to anticipate and overcome the impact of El-Nino," President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in his state-of-the-nation address at an extraordinary plenary session of the House of Representatives (DPR) in Jakarta, early August this year.

According to the president, the anticipation was made by way of among other things, securing sufficient rice stock from the stock of the Logistics Agency (Bulog) with minimum of 1.5 million tons.

The government is preparing reserve funds of Rp1 trillion to Rp2 trillion for efforts to anticipate the impact of El Nino on the country`s agriculture in 2010.

The president said the government would also see to it that dams and dikes would function well.

"To anticipate the drought that may possible cause forest fire, I have instructed the regional governments to anticipate and prevent the fire from spreading," the president said.

Indeed, the local Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, Riau Province, said the arrival of El Nino would worsen forest fires.
"El Nino can worsen the land and forest fires in Riau province," Marzuki, analyst of the BMKG for Pekanbaru office, said recently.

He said that these weeks forest fires had taken place very often in various districts in Riau province due to the high drought degree and fire raze potential index.

Besides the Indonesian government, Indonesia`s neighboring countries are also worried about the impacts of El Nino on forest fires as the fires` haze disregards countries` border lines.

A ministerial meeting on haze pollution in Southeast Asia, which was held in Singapore on Wednesday (Aug. 19), agreed to ban all open burning in the region, in anticipation of the El Nino hot weather condition exacerbating in the last quarter of the year.

The Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution also agreed to suspend permits for prescribed burning activities in fire-prone areas such as in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Singapore`s Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim told a media conference after the half-day meeting that MSC was concerned after the Asean Specialized Meteorological Centre reported that the prevailing weak El Nino phenomenon was forecast to intensify to a moderate to strong condition by the end of this year.

Saying the El Nino was likely to worsen and prolong the current dry spell in the region till October, he said the MSC expected there would be continued increase in hotspot activities in the fire-prone areas in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sarawak over the next few months.

The MSC noted that this was likely to lead to more incidences of transboundary smoke haze pollution in the region, the minister said.

For years, Indonesia had faced criticism from its neighbors for not doing enough to fight the fires set by locals and plantation companies.

Indonesia`s neighbors would give any assistance needed, but it had to take the lead, said the Singapore minister, who had criticized Jakarta`s response to the current haze.

Indonesia`s Environmental Affairs Minister told the MSC it had taken several new and stricter actions in dealing with the haze pollution which included empowering its authorities to prosecute offenders, issuing warning letters to local governments and companies in fire-prone provinces, carrying cloud-seeding operations and banning open burning in Central Kalimantan since early this month.

Replying to questions by the media, Rachmat said, with a vast territory and millions of farmers - many of whom still practice the slash-and-burn method of farming - Indonesia would need longer time to reduce the hotspots and curb the haze pollution.

Since the MSC was established (in 2006) and Indonesia became a member, there has been a lot of improvement in the haze situation in the region, the Indonesian minister said.

However, Indonesian environmental groups said the government of President-elect Yudhoyono should put forest protection at the top of its agenda, ahead of a international meeting in Copenhagen in December to agree action against climate change.

"Every day more precious forest and peatland is being destroyed, burned and cleared by climate and forest criminals ... leading to an exponential increase in greenhouse gas emissions that is causing climate change," Greenpeace said in a statement as quoted by Reuters.

According to Asean HazeAction online, the forest fire in 1997-1998 which affected Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, was among the most damaging in recorded history. Those countries are members of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

More than 9 million hectares of land were burnt, 6.5 million of which were forested areas. The damage was estimated at more than US$ 9 billion in terms of economic, social and environmental losses, including the release of an estimated 1-2 billion tonnes of carbon. The land and forest fires in 1997-1998, 2002 and 2005 in Southeast Asia have destroyed more than 3 million hectares of peatlands.(*)