Indonesian president warns of long dry season, potential forest fires

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered ministers and regional heads to take anticipative steps to mitigate risks of crop failure and forest fire due to the El Nino dry weather phenomenon this year.

Widodo said in a cabinet meeting that the dry season was expected to peak in August to September and some areas in Java and Bali had not have rain for 61 days, according to a statement published by the Cabinet Secretary late on Monday.

“We will carry out weather modification or build artesian well, if necessary,” he said, adding that the environment ministry was ordered to heightened control over forest fire hot spots.

“I hope we can anticipate and avoid forest and peat fires,” he added.

Indonesia is vulnerable to forest fire in the dry season, often started by uncontrolled fire used by farmers to clear out land for cultivation.

Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy