The announcement was made first week March at the start of the three-day symposium of the 4th Asia-Pacific Global on Earth Observation System in Bali. Attending the event are delegations from 26 member states of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).
The forest observations, being conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Lapan), is aimed at collecting data on forest coverage and monitoring changes in the areas, including pinpointing fire hot spots.
Lapan remote-sensing unit deputy head Nur Hidayat said Indonesia had teamed up with Australia for the project.
“We’re looking to reduce the number of forest and peatland fires by 20 percent a year, so we’re continuously observing forests using remote-sensing satellite technology,” he said.
“The number of hot spots can now be monitored in real time.
“We’re intensifying our annual monitoring of forests to collect reliable and accurate data that can be used to calculate the forest’s capacity to absorb carbon emissions.”
Data collected by the agency will be used to draft a recommendation for follow-up action from other agencies, Hidayat said.
Indonesia is targeting to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020, or 2.95 gigatons of CO2, 14 percent of it to come from the forestry sector.
The country’s total forest cover is 98.5 million hectares, according to Forestry Ministry estimates. Islands with the highest coverage include Papua, which is 33 percent forest, and Kalimantan with 27.8 percent.
Lapan liaison director Ratih Dewanti Dimyati said the partnership with Australia was aimed at providing data on land changes for Indonesia’s National Carbon Accounting System (INCAS).
INCAS is a joint forest carbon partnership program between the two countries to support Indonesia in providing significant and cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by reducing deforestation, encouraging reforestation and promoting sustainable forest management.
“We’re currently in the process of updating the previous data on forest areas nationwide, and we expect to complete it by the end of this year,” she said.
“However, because this is still the early stage of the observation, we can’t say conclusively if there has been any increase in deforestation or the number of hot spots.”
The agency’s will crosscheck its findings with those from the Australian team, to ensure the accuracy.
Forest fires are common across the country, particularly in Kalimantan and Sumatra.
The number of hot spots in Central Kalimantan has fluctuated wildly over the past 13 years, says the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) Indonesia.
In 2009, the figure was 4,860, up from 1,827 in the previous year and 2,793 in 2007.