By Dames Alexander Sinaga
JAKARTA, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Indonesia is bracing for the impacts of the upcoming El Nino, a climate phenomenon linked to warming waters in the central and eastern areas of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
The Southeast Asian country's meteorology, climatology and geophysical agency BMKG has issued an official statement on its website stating that Indonesia is expected to experience the El Nino phenomenon during the second half of this year.
"Parts of Indonesia are estimated to have low rainfall conditions during the dry season with particular areas predicted to experience below-normal rainfall conditions," BMKG said, calling on the public not to panic over the weather phenomenon.
Other Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, have also raised the El Nino alert.
In a bid to mitigate the threatening food crisis caused by droughts, the Indonesian government recently said that they will establish task forces and send them to regions potentially affected by the climate pattern.
The country's Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo called on regional authorities to recommend local farmers to start investing in more drought-tolerant seeds.
At least 13 million farmers across the country, the minister said, have been given coaching over the past four years as part of the government's program to improve food security amid extreme weather.
Meanwhile, the country's Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan recently told local media that the ministry is ready to increase the amount of imported rice if necessary.
The minister has informed President Joko Widodo, who said last month that the government would import 2 million tons of rice gradually this year in a bid to anticipate food security amid El Nino.
The El Nino phenomenon in Indonesia is also typically associated with forest and peatland fires. Mainly caused by illegal slash-and-burn clearing performed on behalf of the palm oil industry principally on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, forest and peatland fires spread quickly in the dry season.
The country's Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian has recently called regional chiefs to stay alert for El Nino, instructing them to form groups of volunteer firefighters. ■