Solving forest fires a matter of will, says Jokowi

Solving forest fires a matter of will, says Jokowi

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has issued an ultimatum demanding that all stakeholders show a strong will to resolve land and forest fires in Indonesia, especially in Riau province, where the issue has persisted for the last 17 years.

"There is no new solution to the issue as everyone understands what must be done. This is a matter of whether we are willing to resolve the issue," Jokowi said during a visit to Pekanbaru, Riau, on Wednesday.

Jokowi reiterated he had received reports from all quarters, including the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police, relevant ministries and regional administrations as well as conservation institutions, which said that all were familiar with the issue.

He said he had immediately gone to the field to understand the reality.

"If we master the situation in the field, making decisions is easy," said the President, who is also a graduate of Gadjah Mada University's School of Forestry.

Asked whether the government would revoke the licenses of companies faced with environmental management problems, Jokowi said he had delegated the matter to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

"Direct your query to the minister," said Jokowi.

Jokowi and his entourage arrived at Rusmin Noerjadin Airport, Pekanbaru, around noon on Wednesday and directly departed for Sungai Tohor village in Meranti Island regency, one of Indonesia's outermost areas, via helicopter.

He was expected to fly to the location taking a route that passed over the Tesso Nilo National Park in Pelalawan regency and the Zamrud Lake Nature Preserve in Siak regency.

However, less than 30 minutes into the flight, the weather worsened and forced the Air Force's Super Puma helicopter that was carrying the presidential entourage to return to Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru.

Jokowi, who is on a visit to Riau with First Lady Iriana and two of their children, Kahiyang Ayu and Kaesang Pangarep, will stay the night in Pekanbaru.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jokowi held a meeting with Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, acting Riau governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman, Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Dolly Bambang Hermawan and a number of regents and officials. The meeting took place at Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport's VIP lounge.

Jokowi also cancelled a visit to Bawah Market in Pekanbaru. Traders, students and local residents who had waited for Jokowi's arrival at the gateway starting at noon, then dispersed.

"Pak Jokowi cancelled his visit to Bawah Market and stayed overnight at the Pekanbaru Hotel. We don't know about tomorrow's agenda," Antara news agency quoted Riau provincial administration spokesman Jefry as saying in Pekanbaru.

Riau University Disaster Studies Center director Haris Gunawan said forest fire prevention through peatland conservation in Riau was part of an effort to resolve the prolonged haze issue.

Haris said one conservation effort concerned preventing the peatland from drying up and allowing it to remain wet.

"Many residents and plantation companies dry up the peatland by making canals, causing the peatland to dry and easily catch fire, [or it is easy for others] to intentionally set fire to it," said Haris.

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