Indonesia: Haze from neighboring provinces covers Riau

Rizal Harahap and Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 20 Aug 15;
Forest and land fires in the neighboring provinces of Jambi and South Sumatra have been blamed for haze in a number of regions in Riau, including Pekanbaru and Dumai on Wednesday morning.

Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edwar Sanger, however, said that the haze could not have come from forest and land fires in Riau as the latest data showed there were no massive fires in the province.

Quoting data from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Edwar said that only two hot spots were detected on Wednesday, both of which were located at the border of Tesso Nilo National Park and Langgam district in Pelalawan regency.

“The haze was not significant,” Edwar told The Jakarta Post, Wednesday.

The fact that the satellites detected 51 hot spots in Jambi and 30 others in South Sumatra further strengthened the assumption that the haze in Riau came from fires in Jambi and South Sumatra.

“Both provinces are burning. Riau is still under control,” Edwar said.

He added that his agency would continue to coordinate with both provinces and offer aid to help extinguish the fires in the two provinces, for example by dropping water from Pekanbaru.

Haze has also been blanketing East Tanjungjabung regency, Jambi, for the last few days due to land fires in Mendahara Ulu district and in areas around Paduka Berhala Sports Hall.

“The visibility is only some 200 meters. It’s also difficult to breathe,” Amin of Mendahara Ulu said, Wednesday.

Haze also covered East Tanjungjabung waters, limiting visibility to some 50 meters.

“The haze has been here for the last two days. Today is relatively thick,” said Umar, a local, who owns a speed boat.

Responding to the condition, Regency Health Agency head Samsiran Halim called on people to take precautions against the impacts of haze on their health. He also called on them to wear masks when outdoors.

“We have been distributing masks for a few days through community health centers [Puskesmas],” Samsiran said, adding that if people ran out of masks they could get them at his office.

According to the BMKG’s Jambi station, 107 hot spots were detected across the province. The station’s forecaster, Kurnianingsih, said previously that it had detected only 37 hot spots.

The hot spots were detected in Muaro Jambi (32 spots), East Tanjung Jabung (30), Sarolangun (12), Tebo (9), Batanghari (5), Merangin (3) and Kerinci (1).

“The accuracy is 70 percent, meaning that there are indications of fires,” Kurnianingsih said, adding that the haze had not disrupted flight activities as visibility in the regions was still considered normal.