Indonesia: Residents’ health at risk as haze lingers in West Kalimantan

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 25 Aug 16;

Haze is causing concern for people in West Kalimantan where fires have razed land and forests for the past two weeks.

Residents are enduring the effects of smoke that usually appears each morning and evening, disrupting activities at airports and endangering people’s health.

Pontianak Health Agency head Sidiq Handanu told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that over recent days the air quality had worsened at certain times of the day.

“Various logistics have been prepared at every community health center, such as drugs and masks, and medical workers have been asked to be on alert,” said Sidiq, adding that air quality deteriorates from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m., then gradually improves in the afternoon.

Air quality can be monitored on the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) website at bmkg.go.id to determine the content of air particulates in real time.

At Pontianak’s Supadio Airport, haze in the morning interrupted flights and caused delays of 30 to 45 minutes. State-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II’s Supadio Airport head, Bayuh Iswantoro, said the earliest flight schedule for 6:15 a.m. was affected by haze that left visibility at only 500 meters. Takeoffs and landings could only be carried out after 7 a.m. when visibility improved to 1,000 meters.

“Flights will be interrupted at a visibility of only 500 meters, but only briefly. Without haze, normal visibility is around 5,000 meters,” said Bayuh, adding that visibility below 800 meters was categorized as disrupting takeoffs and landings.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s (BNPB) data, information and public relations head, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, mentioned in a press release that the highest number of hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan would be defected from August to October, with its peak in September.

Six provinces have enacted emergency status for forest and land fires: Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

The West Kalimantan provincial administration, which previously declared emergency status from June 1 to Sept. 1, reported that the status would be extended until November.

The status will ease access for the BNPB and each regional disaster mitigation agency (BPBD) to mobilize resources, including deploying eight helicopters and two planes for water bombing, as well as two aircraft to induce artificial rain.

“The BNPB is preparing to send a helicopter for water bombing and an aircraft to make artificial rain in West Kalimantan,” said Sutopo.

The West Kalimantan BPBD’s logistics and emergency response head, Bosman D. Hutahaean, said that eight of the 14 regencies and cities in the province had declared land and forest fire emergency status, while Ketapang, North Kayong and Sambas regencies and Singkawang and Pontianak cities were in the process of doing so.

He cited 135 villages prone to land and forest fires, located in the regencies of Kubu Raya (18 villages), Mempawah (five), Landak (three), Sintang ( 34 ), Sanggau (three), Bengkayang ( 10 ), Sambas ( 10 ), Ketapang ( 45 ) and North Kayong (seven).

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