Extreme dry season hits North Sumatra as Riau prepares fake rain

An extreme dry season has hit Medan and a number of other regions in North Sumatra, triggering fears of possible forest fires. In response, Riau is preparing artificial rain to prevent the possible spread of fire.

Lestari Purba, a staff member with the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Region I Medan, said that last week's air temperature in Medan and other regions had reached 36 degrees Celsius.

"This is already categorized as extreme because the normal temperature for these regions never exceeds 35 degrees Celsius," said Lestari, adding that the normal temperature was between 32 and 35 degrees.

She blamed the condition on wind patterns and the position of the sun directly above North Sumatra. She also said that the hot temperature was predicted to last until the end of June.

The current dry season, she said, was the second this year, as the first one occurred in February. She said that hotspots were expected to be found in a number of regions because of high air temperatures.

Meanwhile, the head of the North Sumatra Forestry Agency, Halen Purba, said that the province was prone to forest fires during dry seasons, in particular the areas of Padang Lawas, North Padang Lawas, Labuhan Batu and Mandailing Natal regencies, as well as in parts of the Tapanuli area.

He said that his office had prepared a forest firefighter unit in anticipation.

"In North Sumatra, forest fires are mostly caused by individuals. Only a few have been caused by companies," Halen told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Meanwhile in Riau, to help deal with the increase in temperature in the region, the provincial administration in co-operation with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) has started preparing an artificial rain operation.

The move is intended to make sure that the increase in temperature does not lead to forest and field fires in the region.

The weather modification technology was also stepped-up following a decision by acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi "Andi" Rachman to extend the forest and land fire emergency status until December 2015.

"We expect this will be effective in preventing the reoccurrence of the haze disaster that has hit Riau for the last 17 years," Andi said after the launch of the operation together with National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Syamsul Maarif in Pekanbaru on Monday.

Andi reminded his listeners of the negative impacts of the haze disaster in 2013 on the region's economy, health and education.

During the haze disaster, he said, thousands of students were sent home.

"We don't want this to be repeated. That's why all elements in the community are expected to be side by side with the government and other stakeholders to conduct early forest and field fire preventive and mitigation measures," he said.

Syamsul Maarif said that BNPB had allocated Rp 15 billion in funds for the development beginning on June 26 of 103 canal blockings in Rokan Hilir, Siak and Bengkalis regencies.

"The development of the canal blockings in the regencies is aimed at increasing the wetness of the areas thus making them difficult to set ablaze," Syamsul said.

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