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Business

Japanese tech used to extinguish Sumatran blazes

A helicopter drops a gel-form fire extinguishing agent in a drill conducted on Nov. 5 on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

PALEMBANG, Indonesia -- Major Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas Group, in a tie-up with the central government, conducted a forest-fire extinguishing test on Nov. 5 using a product developed by several small Japanese companies. The exercise puts Japan's technology into practical use as Indonesia struggles to cope with forest fires and the smoke emanating from them, which pose an ever-worsening problem for Indonesia and neighboring countries.

     The test took place on the outskirts of Palembang, a city on Sumatra Island, in a forest plantation owned by Asia Pulp and Paper Group, where a fire had continued to burn. Asia Pulp and Paper is a member of Sinar Mas Group, which is run by ethnic Chinese.

     Packets containing a gelled extinguishing agent with some water content were dropped by helicopter. Releasing such packets from the air is a more effective means for targeting fires, compared with just spraying water from a helicopter, a source familiar with the matter said. Discharging a gel-form agent is also expected to work better to put out small fires, as the gel spreads to quench them.

     The extinguishing agent is made using substances derived from foodstuffs and put in packets made of a palm-sized, nonwoven fabric. 5,000 packets of the agent are equivalent to 1 metric ton of water.

     The drill was mainly intended to examine how precisely the packets can reach targeted locations and how effectively they can control fires. In Indonesia, fire often spreads across a wide area of peat-covered forestlands.

Small business collaboration

In tests previously conducted in Japan, packets fell only about 5 meters outside of the target zone when they were dropped from a height of 30 meters, compared with a variation of some 20 meters in the case of water spraying, the source said.

     Iluka College Co., a product planning company in Japan's Tottori Prefecture, devised the product by combining the technologies of Ina Food Industry, a maker of food products, such as processed agar, and Hirose Paper Manufacturing, a producer of specialty industrial paper. The food company is based in Ina, Nagano Prefecture, and the paper manufacturer is from Tosa in Kochi Prefecture. Tottori University also cooperated in the project.

     Iluka College is gearing up efforts to collect data to verify the product's quality performance.

     APP is one of the largest paper manufacturers in Asia. The company is often the target of public criticism because it is seen to be partly responsible for the air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions caused by fires. Such conflagrations frequently take place in Indonesia during the dry season and occur in wood plantations owned by APP. In testing the extinguishing agent, the company wants to add to the list of available fire retardant measures.

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