Indonesia: Haze starts disrupting flights in Kalimantan

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 24 Aug 16;

Haze from forest fires in West Kalimantan has caused delays in morning flights at Pontianak’s Supadio Airport over the past two weeks.

A flight that was scheduled to take off at 6:15 a.m. on Wednesday was delayed until the sky cleared at 7 a.m.

PT Angkasa Pura II's Supadio branch general manager, Bayuh Iswantoro, said Wednesday that at 6 a.m. visibility at the airport was only 500 meters.

“But it was only for a brief time because at 7 a.m. visibility was 1,000 meters,” said Bayuh. He said on haze-free days visibility averaged 5,000 meters.

West Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency head of emergency and logistics Bosman D. Hutahaean said that of the 14 regencies and municipalities in the province, eight had declared a haze emergency.

“Once a region declares an emergency, it can deploy personnel and financing and use infrastructure and equipment,” Bosman said.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) provides real-time information on particles in the haze to enable people to plan outdoor activities. When the figure exceeds 150 micrograms per cubic meter, it means the pollution is “unhealthy”. When it is between 0 and 50 micrograms, it falls in the “good” category.

On Wednesday morning, the pollution level reached “very unhealthy” with 314 micrograms per cubic meter. The figure decreased at noon. (evi)

Riau in Danger of Being Surrounded by Forest Fires
Tempo 24 Aug 16;

TEMPO.CO, Pekanbaru - Forest and land fires have continued to surround the Province of Riau - with satellite imagery from Terra and Aqua Satellites indicating that there are 35 active hotspots that are spread across the province. According to the satellite imagery, the majority of the hotspots are localised across the regencies of Rokan Hilir and Bengkalis - with each region contributing to 11 hotspots in the region.

"As per 06:00 Western Indonesia TIme (WIB), we have received reports of newly-formed hotspots," said the Head of Pekanbaru's Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency on Wednesday, August 24, 2016.

Sugarin said that satellite imagery has shown that there five hot spots reported in Pelalawan, three in Dumai, two in Rokan Hulu, two in Siak, and one in Indragiri Hulu. "Out of the 35 hotspots observed, we can report with a significant degree of confidence that at least 15 of these hotspots may indeed turn into active fire spots," he said.

Sugarin further explained that generally speaking, the weather forecast across the province of Riau is sunny with a chance of some overcast conditions. That said, there are a significant possibility of light-to-moderate showers - followed by a chance of strong gale force winds and thunderstorms in the Riau's southern, central and northern regions. "Temperatures are expected to reach a maximum of 32.0-35.0 degrees centigrade," he said.

The fires have begun to produce haze that has caused a significant decline in air quality across several areas, including Dumai and Pelalawan - where visibility has dropped to 4 kilometres. "The haze is visible to the naked eye," said Sugarin.

The Chief Firefighter for Bengkalis Disaster Mitigation Agency, Suiswantoro said that fires have been reported in the village of Muara in Siak Kecil district - where fires have ravaged some 4 hectares of fields. "The fires were first reported three days ago," he said.

Fires on a larger scale have also been reported in the village of Tasik Serai in Pinggir District in Bengkalis, where scores of hectares have been ravaged by an ongoing fire. As of today, a joint-firefighting force - consisting of members of the Indonesian Army (TNI), the Police, and firefighters from the Ministry for the Forestry and the Environment (Manggala Agni) have continued to fight the ongoing fires in the area - aided by helicopters that are tasked to water bomb the affected areas.

Fires in Riau have been reported the dry season began - with the very first reports emerging as early as last month. Riau's Special Taskforce for Field and Forest Fires have since deployed six water bombers to fight the fires, and have begun to resort to weather modification techniques to create artificial rain - while the TNI, Police, and Manggala Agni utilised the land route to fight the fires.

The fires in Riau has claimed one casuaty - an enlisted TNI Officer from Dumai's 004 Aerial Artillery and Defence Detachment - Private 1st. Class Wahyudi - who perished during a fire fighter operation in the village of Pasir Putih in the District of Bagan Sinembag in Rokan Ilir. Prior to the discovery of Wahyudi's body, he had been reported missing from his group for a week.


Air Pollution Levels in West Kalimantan Improve
Sahat Oloan Saragih Jakarta Globe 24 Aug 16;

Jakarta. The air pollution index readings in Pontianak, West Kalimantan and its surroundings reduced slightly to the "moderate" range on Wednesday (24/08), after being marked as "unhealthy" on Tuesday following the increasing number of forest fire hotspots in the region.

An index reading between 51-100 is moderate and 101-199 is considered unhealthy.

Based on observations by the Modis satellite, 61 hotspots have been detected in West Kalimantan, scattered around the districts of Sambas, Mempawah, Sanggau, Ketapang, Sintang, Bengkayang, Sekadau, Melawi and Kubu Raya.

Sambas has the most number of hotspots reported, with 18, followed by Mempawah and Kubu Raya with 9 each.

Data from Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, or BMKG said the number of hotspots spreading in West Kalimantan reached 100 last week.

“But now, it has declined to 61 [hotspots],” Dasnian, Pontianak BMKG spokesperson said on Wednesday.

There is likely to be some respite over the next few days as visibility levels have improved from 7.30 a.m. and there is a predicted forecast of rain set to arrive by the end of the week.

“If the [hotspots persist], then the city of Pontianak and its surrounding areas will be blanketed by haze,” Dasnian said.

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