Haze could hit Singapore over next few days, Indonesia warns

Today Online 31 Aug 16;

JAKARTA — Indonesia has warned that smoke from forest fires in Riau province could head towards Singapore and Malaysia in the next few days due to a change in wind direction.

The country’s meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG) said in a statement on its website on Tuesday (Aug 30) that the fires are concentrated in a wide area in the western part of the province on Sumatra island.

“Forest fires in the West Sumatra region will be monitored closely, particularly over the next five days as the situation is delicate,” it said, adding that as the winds turn and blow eastwards, the smoke might head towards Malaysia and Singapore.

The agency said it will keep a close watch on other high-risk areas in Aceh, Bengkulu, Jambi, and part of South Sumatra, and also warned ththere could be more fires in Central and West Kalimantan in the next few days due to adverse weather conditions there.

Riau is one of several provinces which has declared a state of emergency, and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said this has allowed the agency to respond more quickly to forest fires than last year.

An official at the BNPB operations centre in Jakarta told TODAY that measures taken to fight the fires in these provinces — which include Jambi in Central Sumatra and Central, West and South Kalimantan — include water bombing with air-tractors, helicopters as well as cloud seeding to induce rain.

“BNPB is still carrying out these actions to stop the forest fires from spreading. 45 per cent of the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan are in peatland areas,” he said, adding that the fires were caused by a combination of dry weather conditions, sporadic rain and illegal use of fire to clear lands.

According to the official, ground units comprising police officers, army personnel, firefighters, volunteers and workers have also been activated to help snuff out forest fires at affected areas.

He added that in Sumatra, more than 50 hectares of land is still burning and producing thick smoke.

BMKG forecaster Andersen Panjaitan told TODAY that the latest imagery from the Himawari satellite shows that the situation in Sumatra has improved in recent days due to rain over the past two days.

“Based on our observation the smoke is less intense today due to heavy rain in the province,” Mr Panjaitan added.

Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand suffered the worst haze outbreak in years from September to November last year. The crisis affected tens of millions of people, forcing school closures and caused thousands to fall sick across the region.

Singapore’s air quality hit the “unhealthy” range on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) last Friday but on Indonesia’s BNPB on Monday said it was confident the country’s forest fires and haze of toxic smoke are unlikely to reach levels seen in 2015 because of favourable weather conditions and a quicker emergency response.

“We are certain this year things will be better,” agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho told reporters on Monday, referring to a 61 per cent reduction in hotspots seen in 2016 compared with a year ago. AGENCIES


Better air quality expected following rain in Sumatra: NEA
Channel NewsAsia 30 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE: The air quality on Tuesday (Aug 30) has been in the Good to Moderate range, and the overall 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) is forecast to be in the Moderate range, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The 1-hr PM2.5 concentration over the next 24 hours is expected to remain in Band I (Normal), it added.

Many parts in Singapore had rain in the late morning and afternoon on Tuesday, and the air quality has been in the Good to Moderate range, and for the rest of the day, partly cloudy conditions are expected, the agency said in its advisory.

As at 5pm, the 24-hr PSI was 44-56, in the Good to Moderate range, and the 1-hr PM2.5 concentration readings was 5-15 µg/m3, in Band I (Normal).

In Indonesia, NEA said there were four hotspots detected in Sumatra and there was no visible haze there. "Showers have been affecting parts of Sumatra today," NEA said.

Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, people can continue with normal activities. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention, the agency said.

- CNA/kk

Haze: PSI for next 24 hours forecast to be in moderate range
Today Online 30 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE — Air quality over the next 24 hours is expected to be in the moderate range, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a haze update at about 5.45pm on Tuesday (Aug 30).

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading is between 51 and 100 in the moderate range. The one-hour PM2.5 concentration over the next 24 hours is also expected to remain in Band I (Normal), which is between 0µg/m3 to 55µg/m3.

On Wednesday, prevailing winds are forecast to blow from the south-east or south and thundery showers expected in the late morning and afternoon.

On Tuesday, air quality remained in the good to moderate range. There were thundery showers over many parts of Singapore in the late morning and afternoon.

“Four hotspots were detected in Sumatra, and there was no visible haze there,” said the NEA.

Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, the NEA said “everyone can continue with normal activities. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention”.

Singapore Passes Law to Prosecute Indonesians Responsible for Haze
Bayu Adha & Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 30 Aug 16;

Jakarta. National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said Singapore has passed a law that will allow it to prosecute Indonesian citizens involved in the burning of peatlands and forests.

"This is a serious problem for the people of Riau, and also for the reputation of Indonesians," Tito said in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Tuesday (30/08), as reported by Antara news agency.

Last week, both Malaysia and Singapore offered assistance to handle the wildfires in Indonesia.

According to the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), this year's peatland and forest fire handling is much better than last year due to collaborative efforts by the central and regional governments in preventing and mitigating wildfires in eight provinces.

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