Indonesia's Haze Central

Indonesia's Haze Central

At first glance, this room on the fourth floor of a commercial building in central Jakarta could pass off as a conference room.

But three large wall-mounted flat television screens displaying wind direction, weather data and real-time maps of 11 provinces betray its real function - a "situation room".

This is the nerve centre where updated information on hot spots across Indonesia's fire-prone provinces is tracked by 12 officials.

They gather and process the information before disseminating it every morning to others, including provincial police chiefs and local governments.

"What we are doing is to organise information... and it is amazing how organised data makes a difference," said Mr Agus P. Sari, an official manning the data at Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Management Agency (BP REDD+), the agency that oversees the situation room.

The added vigilance and targeted information could explain why Riau province, the epicentre of last year's worst regional haze in 16 years, has seen fewer hot spots this year, he said.

Previously, poor coordination among the large number of parties involved in combating forest and plantation fires was blamed for the often-reactive efforts on the ground.

In the situation room, live satellite data is fed to software that overlays other information such as that from the forestry ministry on plantation concession areas and weather data from the meteorological department.

One screen was divided into 12 smaller screens - 11 of them each showing a fire-prone province, with at least eight underlined with a red bar, indicating presence of hot spots.

The 12th screen showed the overall hot spot map of Indonesia.

"We zoom in on the province on a bigger screen to check the fire spots and map it on plantation maps we got," said Mr John Paterson, another senior official with BP REDD+.

"Using this, we could know whose land is burning."

The satellite data analysis, provided by several agencies like United States-based World Resources Institute, is updated every four hours, based on the frequency of the satellites moving over the watched areas. After analysing the information, officials in the BP REDD+ office in Jakarta upload the combined data onto a public weblink and alert a host of parties to take action.

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