Singapore unlikely to be affected by transboundary haze: NEA

Felicia Choo Straits Times 1 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - People in Singapore can breathe easy for the time being, as the haze from Indonesia has a low likelihood of affecting the country, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

In response to queries from The Straits Times, NEA said on Tuesday (Aug 1): "For this week, the prevailing winds over Sumatra are expected to continue to blow from the south-east or south. The likelihood of transboundary haze affecting Singapore is thus expected to be low."

The number of satellite-detected hot spots across Indonesia also fell slightly to 214 on Monday (July 31), according to Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency.

There were 239 hot spots the day before, caused by forest fires which were located mostly in the western regions of Aceh and Kalimantan.

To combat the spread of haze and prevent a repeat of the 2015 regional haze crisis, more than 21 billion litres of water have been dropped by aerial firefighters over fires in Riau since January, covering more than 549ha of land.

NEA said there have been occasional instances of increased hot-spot activities in Sumatra and western Kalimantan since the start of the traditional dry season in June.

"Based on the NOAA19 satellite, the highest increase was in the last few days of July, when up to 29 and 33 hot spots were detected respectively in Sumatra and Kalimantan," it said.

On Tuesday (Aug 1), the Meteorological Service Singapore said in a statement that prevailing South-west monsoon conditions are expected to persist in the first two weeks of August, with higher rainfall and low-level winds forecast to blow from the south-east or south-west.

However, while showers are expected on most days, “a few warm days with daily maximum temperatures reaching as high as 34 deg C can still be expected”, it added.

Many Indonesian forest fires detected as dry season approaches
Today Online 2 Aug 17;

JAKARTA — Indonesian satellites are detecting hundreds of hotspots from forest and land fires as dry season approaches, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said Tuesday (Aug 1).

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said satellites of the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space detected 176 hotspots on July 27, 277 on July 28, 238 on July 29, and 239 on July 30, mostly in the provinces of West Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara and Aceh.

“During the past four days, forest and land fires in West Kalimantan have spread to several areas with 126 hotspots being detected Sunday morning,” Mr Sutopo said.

Efforts to extinguish the fires continue with four water bombing helicopters deployed, while police, military personnel and local people battle the blazes on the ground.

“The main obstacles in extinguishing the fires are the huge area to take care of, difficult access to the site, limited water sources, dry weather and the lack of public awareness not to do illegal slash-and-burn practices,” Mr Sutopo said.

The peak of the dry season is predicted to arrive in September, raising worries that the number of hotspots will increase.

Since January, the government has declared emergencies in five provinces — Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra all on the island of Sumatra, and West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

Forest and land fires have become an annual problem in Indonesia, particularly between April and October.

In 2015, the worst forest fires in 20 years occurred because of the El Nino weather phenomenon. Fires that year burned 2.6 million hectares of land, caused US$16 billion (S$21.74 billion) in damage, and exposed millions of people in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia and Singapore, to toxic haze. KYODO NEWS

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