Ahead of the peak dry season this year, the Indonesian government has announced that it will be deploying 'artificial rains' to prevent a recurrence of last year's devastating forest fires that destroyed millions of acres of land and forests.
Siti Nurbaya, the country's Environment and Forestry Minister, said that artificial rain has already been successfully used in several fire-prone areas over recent months, The Guardian reported.
Nurbaya said that the government had collaborated with Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) and the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) to develop the artificial rain. Usually, to create artificial rainfall, aeroplanes are used to induce clouds with chemicals like silver iodide or dry ice.
''We are usually rather worried about the weather development in June or during Lebaran [Idul Fitri]. We are now a little relieved but we need to remain alert for the second critical phase at the peak of the dry season in August. All relevant parties must increase their vigilance,'' Siti said.
While forest fires are common during Indonesia's severe dry season, the fires last year destroyed over 1.6 million hectares of land, contributed to a major surge in respiratory illnesses, and are believed to have cost the economy at least $5.2 billion. The toxic haze covered large parts of south-east Asia, forcing the closure of airports and hundreds of schools.
According to officials, law enforcement agencies are also stepping up their work to stop the fires from recurring this year.