Indonesia: Thick haze disrupts flights at Surabaya, Jambi airports 8 Sep 15;

Thick haze caused by forest and land fires has disrupted flights at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, and at Sultan Thaha Airport in Jambi, Jambi province.

On Monday, at least three Citilink and Lion Air flights departing Surabaya for Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan were delayed for more than seven hours.

A spokesperson for state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I, Liza Anindya, told on Monday evening that forest fires in Palangkaraya had disrupted activity at Juanda airport since Saturday, including flights to Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan, Balikpapan in East Kalimantan and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara.

According to a report by Antara news agency on Tuesday, activity at Jambi’s Sultan Thaha Airport was also disrupted.

"We had to cancel water bombing operations by two of our helicopters due to limited visibility, which was down to 600 meters horizontally and 90 meters vertically yesterday. Today, there will be no commercial flight operations at the Sultan Thaha Airport, which [means cancellation of] 18 flight arrivals and 18 departures," said head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Sutopo Purwo Nugroho on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news agency.

He added that the agency plans to use a helipad owned by PT Wirakarya Sakti, a pulpwood supplier for Asia Pulp and Paper, which has better visibility than the Sultan Thaha Airport.

On land, the BNPB currently heads fire-fighting operations in the regencies of Muaro Jambi, West Tanjung Jabung and East Tanjung Jabung.

"One of the challenges for land operations is the difficulty of finding sources of water. In the Jebus area, for example, we had to use an excavator to construct water trenches. Our equipment is also limited," said Sutopo.

Sutopo added that the Jambi Health Agency had distributed 22,400 face masks in affected regencies and cities and that the Plantation Agency had urged plantation firms to support and collaborate with the taskforce team to extinguish the fires.

Based on data from the Modis satellite on Monday at 5 a.m., there are still up to 413 and 170 hot spots in Sumatra overall and Jambi respectively. (kes)(++++)

Haze issues to worsen
Rizal Harahap and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 8 Sep 15;

Despite President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to one of locations affected by forest fires, the problems related to the worsening haze in Sumatra and Kalimantan are unlikely to be solved soon because many agencies do not have enough capacity and financial resources to tackle it.

Wawan Berlinson, the head of the fire agency of Palangkaraya, the capital city of Central Kalimantan, admitted on Monday that it had no money to help extinguish the forest fires that had reached an alert situation.

“We don’t have a budget for forest fires, except for fires in residential areas. It would take time if we want to ask approval from the City Council for additional funds [for forest fires],” Wawan said.

The province’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) had proposed to Governor Hadi Prabowo that he increase the alert status to an emergency status and ask the central government to help tackle the haze problem.

BPBD head Brigong Tom Moenandaz said that, if the alert status was increased, the budget and equipment from the central government to douse the fires could be disbursed.

Separately, Kubu Raya Deputy Regent Hermanus admitted that worsening fires in the regency and Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan, were also caused by methods of burning used for land clearing.

“There is still burning taking place for the purpose of clearing land. We asked people not to do it. Police have also threatened to take stern action,” Hermanus said.

On his visit to the location of a forest fire in Pulo Keronggan village, Ogan Komering Ilir, South Sumatra on Sunday, Jokowi ordered the National Police chief to take stern action against the perpetrators of forest fires.

The inability of the government to tackle the haze caused hundreds of students, activists and environmentalists in Riau, the biggest source of the forest fires, to stage a rally on Monday demanding the environment and forestry minister and their acting governor be sacked.

“They are not worthy of the positions because they cannot seek solutions on haze. If they refuse to step down, just fire them,” the protesters’ coordinator Musa Ali Sanda said.

The protesters also gave an ultimatum to the government to get rid of the haze in five days. Otherwise, they would arrive in bigger numbers.

Quoting Article 28H of the 1945 Constitution, Musa said that the government had the obligation to provide the people with a healthy environment.

“We demand the government realize the mandate of the Constitution.”

The protesters also engaged in a brawl with public order officers as they tried to prevent them from entering the governor’s office compound.

“We are disappointed that the Riau acting governor did not want to have a dialogue with us,” Musa said.

Executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment’s (Walhi) Riau branch, Riko Kurniawan, said he could not understand why the government did not learn from forest and land fires that had reoccurred over the last 18 years.

He also expressed disappointment that the government’s approach had not been more than simply providing trillions of rupiah to extinguish fires.

“It’s not the concrete solution that the people have been expecting from the government. Yet, it’s what the government has been maintaining for the last 18 years,” Riko said.

He said the government had to realize that prevention measures including firmness in policy, law enforcement and peat land protection were much more important than extinguishing fires.

“Hopefully the government will have the wisdom and willingness to look at the root of the problem and not just extinguish fires as if it is an annual project consuming billions of rupiah in funds,” said Riko

Riau, South Sumatra, Jambi, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and West Kalimantan have declared haze emergencies following the worsening forest fires, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry,

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has allocated Rp 385 billion (US$27 million) to contain the fires through water bombing and artificial precipitation.

For many years, the disaster has been repeated in a similar fashion: in the same provinces and with similar text book measures taken to overcome it amid a barrage of complaints from the people and governments of neighboring countries.

Thick smokes still blanketing part of Riau
Antara 8 Sep 15;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Thick smokes still is blanketing part of Riau disrupting flight schedules from and to this provincial city of Pekanbaru.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics office (BMKG) said visibility in the smoke blanketed areas in the province range from 100 meters to 400 meters.

"The worst is in Dumai and Pelalawan, where visibility is around 100 meters," head of the regional office of BMKG in Pekanbaru Sugarin told ANTARA news agency here on Tuesday.

In Pekanbaru the visibility is around 400 meters and in Kota Rengan of the regency of Indragiri Hulu it is meters, Sugarin said.

He said the smokes came from neighboring province of Jambi, adding, there was no hot spot detected in Riau.

In Jambi and South Sumatra there are tens of hot spots sending thick smokes to the air and were blown by the winds to Riau.

Riau has been widely reported to be the sources of thick smokes polluting the air as far as the neighboring countries .

Jefry Noer, regent of Kampar in Riau, said the black haze of smokes came from peat land not from forests.

"The smokes come not from forest fires but from certain fires in peat lands owned by farmers and companies," Jefry said.

Meanwhile, General Manager of the airport of the Sultan Syarif Kasim II Pekanbaru Dani Irawan a number of flights have been delayed on Tuesday.

The condition, however, improved toward mid of the day allowing airlines to resume flight including to Jakarta, Dani said.

"All airlines have to reschedule flights in the day. Citilink, Garuda Indonesia and Air Asia resumed flight in the middle of the day," he said.

From 2 to 7 September or for six days Citilink canceled 58 flights from the International Airport of Sultan Syarif Kasim II in four routes Pekanbaru-Jakarta, Pekanbaru-Yogyakarta, Pekanbaru-Batam and Pekanbaru-Surabaya.

In West Kalimantan, police in Ketapang are investigating reports against local community and company owners charged with setting forest on fire.

Ketapang police chief Adj. Sr. Comr Hady Poerwanto said the suspects are facing 10 years in jail with a fine of Rp1 billion if found guilty.

The heavy punishment is expected to serve as a deterrent against committing forest fires, Hady said.(*)

16 airports impacted by forest fire smog in Indonesia
Antara 8 Sep 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Transportation Ministry has reported that 16 airports on the Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands have been impacted by the forest fire smog hanging over the region for the past one week.

"The visibility has been reduced to below 800 meters, preventing any plane from landing," the ministrys Spokesman J.A. Barata said in a press statement.

Forest fires producing the smog have flared up on the islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java and Sulawesi during the current El Nino-induced drought.

The smog has caused a number of flight delays and cancellations at 16 airports, he added.

In Kalimantan, the affected airports are the Melalan Melak Airport in Kutai (East Kalimantan Province), the Syansyudin Noor Airport in Banjarmasin (South Kalimantan), the Beringin Airport in Muara Teweh, the Iskandar Airport in Pangkalan Bun and the Haji Asan Airport in Sampit (Central Kalimantan), along with the Supadio Airport in Kubu Raya, the Pangsuma Airport in Putussibau, the Susilo Airport in Sintang, the Rahadi Usman Airport in Ketapang, and the Tjilik Riwut Airport in Pontianak (West Kalimantan), and the Atty Besing Airport in Malinau (East Kalimantan).

In Sumatra, the smog-hit airports include Ferdinand Lumban Tobing in Sibolga, and the Silangit Airport in North Tapanuli (North Sumatra), the Sultan Thaha Airport in Jambi, and the Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru (Riau), and the Depati Amir Airport in Pangkal Pinang, Bangka Belitung.(*)

Smog in Sumatra compels students to stay home in Payakumbuh
Antara 8 Sep 15;

Payakumbuh (ANTARA News) - Thick smog caused by forest and land fires in Sumatra Island has forced the Payakumbuh city government in West Sumatra to announce a three-day holiday effective Tuesday for the local students.

"The haze disaster has reached an emergency response level. Therefore, in order to safeguard the health of the students, we gave them a three-day off," Head of Payakumbuh City Governments Educational Affairs Hasan Basri informed reporters here, Tuesday.

Basri pointed out that the holiday period could be extended if the haze condition deteriorated.

"We are monitoring the situation until Thursday. If the smog condition worsens, we will extend the holiday period," he affirmed.

Prior to the decision, several heads of schools, including those from the early childhood education center (PAUD) and kindergartens, had requested the city governments permission to allow their students to stay at home, he remarked.

Speaking about the air quality in the city, Head of Payakumbuhs Environmental Affairs Syamsurial noted that the Pollution Standard Index (PSI) board revealed on Monday that the PSI reached a level of 190 mg/m3, or "unhealthy."

The ongoing forest and land fires have affected several provinces in Sumatra, including South Sumatra and Jambi, and have disrupted commercial flights at several main airports.

This ecological disaster remains an unsolved problem, though the country has had six presidents since the thick smog stemming from forest and land fires enveloped various parts of the Sumatra and Kalimantan islands in 1997 and 1998.

(Reported by MR Denya Utama/Uu.R013/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

Indonesia Intelligence Agency locates 133 fires in C. Kalimantan
Antara 8 Sep 15;

Palangka Raya (ANTARA News) - The Indonesia State Intelligence Agency (BIN) has located 133 fires in plantation areas in Central Kalimantan.

The Chief of BINs regional office, Hadi Purnawan, said after a meeting to set up a task force to deal with the haze problem in the region on Tuesday that fires had spread in 29 plantation areas and that this data had been submitted to the Panju Panjang military resort.

"Of the 29 companies, 10 are still seeking their business rights, while 19 others have obtained them," he added.

He said although fires were spotted in the plantation areas he could not confirm if the fires were caused by deliberate action or other causes.

"They are still to be prove this legally and to confirm if they have violated laws or not," he said.

The Chief of the Central Kalimantan regional police command, Brigadier General Fakhrizal, said the police would take firm action against anyone found guilty of lighting fires.

He said he had instructed the commands chief of special crime investigation to monitor closely the developments on seven companies that have been sealed by the environment and Forestry Ministry.

"We will be indiscriminate. Everyone is equal before the law. We will take action against those that have burnt land or forests, be they individuals or companies," he said.

During the meeting, Colonel Purwo Sudaryanto, was named as Chief of the task force.

(Reporting by Jaya Wirawan Manurung/Uu.H-YH/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

Thick haze puts health, air travel at risk: Indonesia
Rizal Harahap and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb AsiaOne 8 Sep 15;

The intensity of pollution produced by land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan continued to fluctuate over the weekend, putting the health of local residents at risk and disrupting activities in a number of airports on the two major islands.

On Sunday, as of 10 a.m. local time, the management of Sultan Syarif Kasim International (SSK) II Airport in Pekanbaru reported that there was no flight activity taking place at the airport, as the haze that blanketed the Riau provincial capital decreased visibility to only 300 metres.

SSK II officer-in-charge Hasnan Siregar said although the visibility had increased to around 1,000 metres by 9:30 a.m., most airlines had decided to cancel their morning flights to Pekanbaru over safety concerns.

"In fact, there should have been six flight arrivals from Jakarta and Bandung during that time," Hasnan said.

Local authorities in many parts of the country, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan, have been struggling over the past few months to extinguish massive land and forest fires triggered mainly by this year's extended dry season.

In Riau, the country's largest oil-producing region, at least 12 regencies and municipalities have been blanketed by different intensities of pollution over the past weeks, resulting in an increase in the number of people suffering from respiratory illnesses.

Provisional data from the Riau Health Agency, for example, showed that 9,386 people had suffered from haze-related diseases over the past few months. Of that number, 7,412 suffered from acute respiratory infection (ISPA), 903 from skin irritation, 485 from eye irritation, 296 from asthma and 290 from pneumonia.

"During the past week alone, there were 2,601 new patients," agency head Andra Sjafril said on Sunday.

In South Kalimantan, Antara news agency reported that 13 flights from and to Banjarmasin's Syamsudin Noor Airport experienced delays for several hours on Sunday because of the thick haze that covered the city.

A Lion Air flight heading to Surabaya, which was initially scheduled to take off at 6:30 a.m. local time, for example, could only depart at 8:04 a.m., while another serving the Banjarmasin-Yogyakarta route finally left at 8 a.m. after it had been delayed for almost two hours.

"The visibility started to return to normal from 11 a.m. and by noon the visibility increased to 8,000 metres, allowing all subsequent flights to go smoothly," the airport's service section head Wahyu Riyanto said.

The government has recently announced the establishment of a task force that will conduct a "haze emergency" operation at the national level to support soon-to-be-established task forces on regional levels, with the respective governors acting as coordinators.

Meanwhile, in support of ongoing efforts to curb the worsening haze, a number of comic strip drawers accross the archipelago are organising a campaign against the pollution by posting their works, including animation, cartoons, photos, memes and poems under the theme of "protest against haze", on social media.

Pekanbaru-based Dhany Pramata, an initiator of the move, for example, recently created a campaign with the hashtag #MasihMelawanAsap (still fighting against haze) through his Instagram account, which has 55,300 followers.

"As a Riau resident, I will never tire of voicing my protests until the sky over Riau returns to blue," he told The Jakarta Post.