Cloud-seeding planned in South Sumatra

Ansyor Idrus The Jakarta Post 6 Oct 12;

The Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) in cooperation with the South Sumatra administration is planning to create cloud-seeding to help reduce the thick haze that is blanketing the province.

Head of the South Sumatra Forestry Office’s technical unit, Achmad Taufik, said the cloud-seeding would take place for 30 days starting from Oct. 7.

“The cloud-seeding aims to extinguish the rising number of hot spots in a number of areas in South Sumatra. The hot spots are believed to have caused the thick haze, which impacts health and affects flights,” Achmad said on Friday.

He added that an expert team from the BPPT had already arrived in South Sumatra and would soon be implementing the cloud-seeding using a Cassa 212-200 aircraft.

As of Friday, there were 464 hot spots with Ogan Komering Ilir regency recording the highest number, with 191 hot spots.

Agus Maulana, operational director of PT Angkasa Pura II, which manages Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II airport in Palembang, hailed the cloud-seeding plan.

“A drop in the number of hot spots will certainly improve visibility for pilots,” Agus said.

The airport management had to suspend several flights from the city on Sept. 22 due to thick haze covering Palembang.

A number of residents in Palembang have urged South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin to reconsider his plan to conduct the cloud-seeding because heavy rains were due in October, according to forecasts by the local office of the National Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

One of the residents, Ishadi, said that the cloud-seeding would be a waste of money as the rains were forecast to be heavy in October.

“On Friday afternoon, heavy rainfall hit the city of Palembang and over the next several days, they may be heavier,” he said.

Ramawan, another resident, said that the cloud-seeding should have been conducted in September when the haze was thicker. Now, it was already too late, he added.

Meanwhile in Jambi, the capital of Jambi province, which is located to the north of South Sumatra, was still covered on Friday by thick haze, despite rainfall over the last two days.

“Perhaps the rain was not heavy enough to break up the hot spots, which are mostly over peat land. They can take a long time to be extinguished,” said Sucipto, the head of the Jambi Forestry Office’s forest fire mitigation unit.

Last Sunday, haze forced authorities to shut down Jambi’s Sultan Thaha Airport. The airport will remain closed until Oct. 7.

In Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands, the local BMKG office disclosed on Thursday that haze originating from southern areas of Sumatra had blanketed Riau Islands province for the past few days.

“The haze over Riau Islands is not too thick, so visibility is still normal, reaching 4-5 kilometers,” head of the BMKG’s Bintan office, Hartanto, said as quoted by Antara news agency.

He explained that the thickest haze was to be found in Lingga, an area located near South Sumatra, Jambi and Lampung.

A month ago, Singapore’s government agency for the environment revealed that the reading from the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) ranged from 60 to 72, while the moderate range is between 51 and 100.

The reading also carried a health advisory to reduce outdoor activities and prolonged exertion.

The agency attributed the hazy conditions to an escalation of hotspot activities in Sumatra, leading to smoke being blown over from the south-east or south-west.