Haze in Malaysia and Indonesia

Haze shrouds Riau Islands, Sumatra as wildfires expand
Rizal Harahap and Apriadi Gunawan Jakarta Post 14 Aug 12;

Riau Islands province and its surrounding areas were shrouded in a haze that reportedly originated from fires in a number of plantations on Sumatra over the last few days.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Monday opened a Haze Disaster Emergency Field Post at Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau Islands, as haze in the province worsened.

The BNPB Emergency Response director Tri Budiarto said the post was focused on aerial fire fighting operations, adding that it was designed to help forest and peatland fire fighting operations in Jambi and South

“A similar post has also been opened in Palangkaraya [Central Kalimantan] to cover Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan, which are also prone to forest and peatland fires,” Tri told The Jakarta Post after the inauguration of haze disaster mitigation operations in

The BNPB, together with the Applied Technology and Research Agency (BPPT), has also opened a Weather Modification Technology (TMC) command post in an effort to mitigate haze, forest and peatland fires.

“The cloud seeding operation with the BPPT will be conducted for 40 days from now. The cost to setting up the TMCs in Sumatra amount Rp 10 billion (US$1.1 million), derived from the state budget,” said Tri.

He acknowledged that haze mitigation posts were aimed at making the National Games (PON), held in Riau from Sept. 9 to 20, a success.

“We are referring to the haze threat index. There is a tendency that in the next month the haze will further intensify. This is part of anticipatory measures. The BNPB does not want to be in a position where actions are taken only after conditions are at their worst,” Tri added.

Based on satellite images gathered by the Forestry Ministry’s Conservation Directorate General, the number of hot spots reached 15,392 as of Aug. 9 this year, concentrated in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Most of the hot spots are found in Riau (3,486 points), followed by South Sumatra (2,359), West Kalimantan (2,105), Jambi (1,341) and Central Kalimantan (978).

In Medan, the haze covering the city and surrounding areas in North Sumatra over the last three days was believed to have been caused by forest

The Data and Information section head at the Medan Polonia Meteorology Station Mega Sirait said the thick haze blanketing Medan and surrounding areas since Aug. 10 had not yet disappeared.

“The haze is caused by forest fires. As long as forest burning activities continue and there is a lack of rainfall, the haze will cover Medan city,” said Mega.

Mega said the haze in Medan originated from several provinces in Sumatra. Mega added that in the province, forest burning activities were detected in Padang Lawas, Deli Serdang, Asahan and Labuhan Batu regencies.

According to Mega, the haze in Medan and surrounding areas had currently restricted visibility at Polonia Airport to between 2,000 and 3,000 meters. He added that although it had yet to impact on flights, residents, especially motorists, had been advised to be aware of limited visibility.

Malaysia: Peat soil fires contained
Nicholas Cheng The Star 15 Aug 12;

KUALA SELANGOR: Peat soil fires in a 42 hectare land reserve owned by the Selangor Agriculture Development Corporation (PKPS) have been contained.

Bestari Jaya Fire and Rescue Department deputy operations director Ayub Hasan said fires in over half of the landmass affected have been quelled after a gruelling two-week fire fight.

“This has been one of the worst peat soil fire incidences the department has seen since 2006. A crew of 40 from the various fire departments, Civil Defence Ministry (JPAM), Department of Environment and the Selangor Forestry Department have been working round the clock to quell the flames,” he said.

Though fires had previously been reported to be spreading into nearby forest areas, Ayub said the situation was contained after a total flooding operation by the Irrigation and Drainage Department (JPS) last week.

He said, however, that there are three hotspots within 3km from the land reserve that are still ablaze.

“It will be difficult for us to reach these areas without the proper equipment.

“The dry weather and strong winds also pose as a challenge to prevent the fires from starting again,” said Ayub, who added that the operation would take another two weeks to completely extinguish the peat soil fires.

The peat soil fires which began on July 31 is the biggest of four active wildfire situations in the state.

Malaysia Fire and Rescue Department information officer Azmi Majid said early investigations revealed that open burning caused the fire in Bestari Jaya. He advised the public to refrain from such activities.

Haze persists, air quality dips further

The Star 15 Aug 12;

PETALING JAYA: Haze continues to loom over parts of the country as the air quality took a further dip.

According to the Department of Environment (DOE), air quality in Tan- jung Malim reached an unhealthy level with an Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 102.

It also showed that as at 5pm yesterday, 67% or 33 areas were experiencing moderate air quality, which is between the API reading of 51 to 100. On Monday, moderate air quality was recorded in 58% or 30 areas.

Yesterday, Banting in Selangor was dangerously close to reaching an unhealthy level with an API of 90.

However, air quality in Penang had improved over the past 24 hours with the API in Seberang Jaya 2 dropping to 83 from 86 while that for Universiti Sains Malaysia was lower at 67 as at 11am.

The air quality for Alor Setar and Kangar was also better, recording 79 and 60 respectively.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas had said that although more DOE enforcement officers would be deployed to check for open burning and excessive smoke from motor vehicles, the main issue was still transboundary haze blown in by the southwest monsoon wind from fires in Sumatra, Indonesia.

The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre recorded 310 hotspots in Sumatra and 27 here.