Indonesia Red Cross Extends Haze Emergency Response to Jan 2016

Carla Isati Octama Jakarta Globe 29 Oct 15;

Jakarta. Indonesia Red Cross, or PMI, will extend the emergency response period in haze-affected provinces until January, officials said.

“Since the number of the people whose health have been severely affected by the haze keeps increasing, we have decided to extend the [emergency] response period to January 2016, hoping that rains will fall in February 2016,” Ginandjar Kartasasmita, the PMI's Chairman, said at the PMI's headquarter in South Jakarta, Thursday.

“This is actually the second response operation we are doing. It will be held from November to early January. The first one took place right after the haze started happening this year,” he added.

Sumarsono, the PMI's Disaster Management Chief, said that the emergency response operations will be launched in seven provinces mostly-affected by the haze: South Sumatera, Jambi, Riau, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and East Kalimantan.

The PMI will deploy numerous ambulances for evacuation, mobile clinics, blood donation units and emergency posts.

“We will distribute more masks and shelters as well,” Sumarsono said.

Specialized medical treatment for vulnerable groups — children, expectant mothers, the elderly and the disabled — will also be provided by the PMI.

Earlier on Thursday, the PMI sent more aid to Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands including dozens of water trucks, water purifiers, ambulances, masks, air purifiers and eye drops.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent, the US Red Cross, as well as the Australia Red Cross also given a hand in the PMI's emergency response operations.

The haze crisis has continued to worsen with over 43 million people exposed to smoke from the wildfires, with over half a million cases of acute respiratory tract infections recorded. Months of drought have exacerbated the crisis.

PMI sends more aid to fight forest fires 29 Oct 15;

A team of emergency operators from the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) departed to the smog affected areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan on Thursday to help tackle the country’s worst haze to date.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, upon deploying the 630 personnel, reported Antara news agency, said, "Local PMI officers have worked really hard but after given the worsening situation, the PMI [Jakarta] must help them expand the operation."

The haze from forest and peatland fires has been blanketing parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan for the past three months.

Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said on Wednesday that at least 19 people had died from the toxic smoke and 500,000 people had been severely affected.

Kalla added that the PMI was working at close to its national potential with the support of PMI officials from Central Java and East Java already in action.

"Hopefully this task can be carried out well until the rainy season comes," Kalla said.

PMI has also arranged a three-month emergency operation in Sumatra from November to January.

The operation, released on Thursday, will send out 10 water-tank vehicles, two water filters, 10 ambulances, 100,000 N95 masks, 150,000 evo masks, air filters and eye drops.

The PMI’s regional office will send similar equipment to Kalimantan.

The organization received support from partners including the International Red Cross Federation, Red Crescent, US Red Cross and the Australian Red Cross.

The PMI has already distributed 700,000 masks for haze victims in Sumatra and Kalimantan. (rin)

VP Kalla dispatches PMI team to haze-affected areas
Antara 29 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla, who is concurrently chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), dispatched a PMI emergency response team to the haze-affected areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan on Thursday.

"The PMI in the regions has so far worked hard, but due to the haze disaster, it will put in greater efforts during its operations," Kalla stated at the PMI headquarters here on Thursday.

According to the vice president, the PMI personnel deployed in different regions affected by haze have made every effort to provide medical assistance to the haze victims.

The vice president said the forest fires, which have produced catastrophic smoke, have been ongoing for three months.

He remarked that the PMI emergency response team comprising around 630 personnel will offer medical assistance to the haze victims in various areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Haze death toll reaches 19 in Sumatra, Kalimantan
Hans Nicholas Jong and Ina Parlina, The Jakarta Post 29 Oct 15;

Haze blanketing parts of Indonesia has taken the lives of 19 people in the last two months as thousands of fires caused by slash-and-burn farming have choked vast areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said on Wednesday that the death toll had increased from 10 people as previously reported by the he National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

“Nineteen people have died from the effects of haze as of [Wednesday] morning,” she said.

More than 500,000 people have been severely affected by the disaster, with thousands, mostly children, hospitalized for severe respiratory issues brought on by the haze.

However, the number of hot spots indicating forest fires has plunged drastically thanks to rain in Sumatra and Kalimantan in the past couple of days, making the government optimistic that the fires will end next month.

According to data from the BNPB, the number of hot spots has dropped to 507 from 3,226 last week, when forest fires spread to the eastern part of the country.

“Yesterday’s rain reduced the number of hot spots very significantly, as well as increasing visibility in a number of cities with airports,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a coordination meeting at his office in East Jakarta on Wednesday.

Sumatra, which still had thousands of hot spots last week, only had 10 hot spots as of Wednesday, with Riau and Jambi having zero hot spots, followed by Bengkulu and Lampung with three hot spots each and South Sumatra with four.

Kalimantan still has the largest number of hot spots, with 138, according to BNPB data, 127 of which were in East Kalimantan, while Central Kalimantan only had nine hot spots and West and South Kalimantan had one hot spot each.

The rain also helped to increase visibility in many cities, including Pekanbaru, which previously were forced to suspend airport operations as flights could not be accommodated in low visibility caused by thick smoke.

“Commercial flights have resumed this morning, but only Batik Air. As for Garuda Indonesia, they have stopped their flights [to Riau] until October 31,” acting Riau governor Arsyadjuliandi “Andi” Rachman reported during the meeting.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who also attended the teleconference meeting, ordered Andi to allow aircraft from Garuda Indonesia to land.

“If the visibility is already 2,000 meters, just tell them to land. It’s already possible,” he said.

Luhut also ordered all regional governments to be alert to the possibility of intensifying rainfall in the coming weeks, as the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) predicted rain would begin to fall on regions affected by haze in November.

The retired general urged local administrations to deploy planes for cloud-seeding to induce rain. “We are talking about a window of opportunity of mere hours, because clouds will appear for only one or two hours,” he said.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is set to personally lead the government’s haze countermeasures when he returns to Indonesia from a brief visit to the US. He is expected to stay in the affected regions, such as South Sumatra, Jambi and Central Kalimantan, to oversee operations.

New Hotspots Detected in Sumatera
Tempo 29 Oct 15;

TEMPO.CO, Pekanbaru - Tera and Aqua satellites detected 111 hotspots in several areas in Sumatera, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru station reported. The number rose sharply after the hotspots had previously decreased to only six.

“New hotspots detected at 07.00am,” said BMKG’s Pekanbaru station chief Sugarin Widayat on Thursday, October 29.

Sugarin said South Sumatera has the most hotspots with 104, followed by Jambi with four hotspots and Lampung with three hotspots. “Riau has no more hotspot,” said Sugarin.

Riau’s weather condition is generally cloudy with haze, explained Sugarin. There is a chance of light rain at noon across Riau. “The maximum temperature is 33.5 degrees Celsius,” he said.

Thin haze from the forest fires in Riau is still disrupting the air quality in Riau. The visibility in Rengat and Dumai is only 50 meters and 100 meters. On the other hand, Pekanbaru and Pelalawan have good visibility with 1,000 meters.

Thousands pledge to combat haze
Rizal Harahap, Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post 29 Oct 15;

Commemorating Youth Pledge Day on Wednesday, thousands of activists, students and lecturers in Riau and West Sumatra staged rallies, urging the government to resolve the prolonged haze problem.

Calling their rally “Pledge against Haze”, students and lecturers from Sultan Syarif Kasim State Islamic University in Pekanbaru marched from their campus to occupy the yard of the Riau governor’s office.

The students then together pronounced a pledge adapted from the one pronounced by Indonesian youth leaders in 1928: “We, as Indonesian sons and daughters, acknowledge one motherland free from haze, one nation that does not burn land or forests and one language that fights against the government and corporations that cause haze.”

The protesters managed to begin lowering the national flag at the gubernatorial office, but police officers intervened to hoist it back up.

“We want to use today’s symbolism to demand that the government take concrete steps to resolve the haze problem,” the rally’s field coordinator Rizky Ananda said.

The protesters, according to Rizky, demanded the revocation of a gubernatorial decree that allows residents to burn land of a certain area, as well as the arrest of directors of corporations that burn land and the seizure of company assets.

“The government should also immediately send medicine to remote villages affected by the haze,” he said.

The demonstrators also urged the government to review permits for palm oil plantations and industrial forest plantations to prevent haze reoccurring in the future, he added.

“Revoke half of all palm oil and industrial forest plantation permits to prevent haze in the future,” Rizky said.

The protesters also asked all political parties to establish medical centers to help residents suffering from haze-related diseases.

“If the political parties do not set up medical centers, we will call on people to boycott them during the next regional elections,” he said.

Meanwhile in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, hundreds of students in face masks marched from Belakang Balok to the city legislative council building. The students demanded the government review the permits of plantations believed to have caused land and forest fires.

In Padang, the capital city of the province, students and activists from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) distributed masks and leaflets to motorists.

“We are distributing 750 masks and still collecting donations from the public to help haze-affected areas, especially in Sijunjung and Dhamasraya regencies,” said rally participant Novi Fani Rovika.

On Wednesday, haze decreased after sporadic rain in some parts of West Sumatra. However, the Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU) remained at the “unhealthy” level, with particulate matter (PM10) measured at 240 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³).

“PM10 levels are lower than in previous days, but still at an unhealthy level,” said Alberth Nahas, a researcher with Global Atmosphere Watch Kototabang.

According to the government’s existing guidelines, air quality is considered “healthy” if its PM10 level stands below 50 µg/m³, “moderate” when the level stands between 50 and 150 µg/m³, “unhealthy” between 150 and 350 µg/m³, “very unhealthy” between 350 and 420 µg/m³ and “dangerous” when it surpasses 420 µ-g/m³.

In Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra, the number of people suffering severe acute respiratory infections (ISPA) increased from 3,835 patients in July to 5,627 in August as a result of the haze.

Among the patients were three siblings, Ramadhani, 11, Pandry, 7, and Putri, 5, who were being treated in the same room at Deli Serdang General Hospital on Wednesday.

Juningsih, the mother of the three patients, said her children had needed treatment at the hospital after breathing in polluted air.

“My three children are suffering fever, coughs and nausea. The Doctor said it is ISPA, probably because of the haze,” said Juningsih.

Learn preventive measures to counter haze impacts: Indonesia minister
Antara 29 Oct 15;

Jambi (ANTARA News) - Health Minister Nila Djuwita Anfasa Moeloek has called on the public to learn preventive measures against the impacts of haze emanating from forest fires, so they could stay healthy.

"The public must know about preventive measures," Minister Moeloek, an ophthalmologic surgeon, stated here on Tuesday.

She called on the inhabitants of the regions hit by forest fires to say indoors when the pollutant standard index reached a hazardous level.

"When the level of the pollutant standard index is high, do not go outside homes, particularly for children and other high-risk groups, such as elderly people," Moeloek, who had served as the then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonos special envoy for the Millennium Development Goals, affirmed.

The minister also advised the residents to always wear face masks when they venture outdoors, stay amply hydrated, and eat nutritious food to boost their immunity, so that they would not easily fall ill.

The hazardous haze arising from the ongoing forest and plantation fires has led to 10 deaths, left 503 thousand people sick, and 43 million people exposed to smoke in six provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan alone.

The people are suffering from acute respiratory infection, eye and skin irritations, and pneumonia.

Moeloek was born in Jakarta on April 11, 1949. Her husband, Faried Anfasa Moeloek had also served as health minister during the period between 1998 and 1999.

Jokowi leads haze countermeasure efforts from Palembang 29 Oct 15;

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has arrived at the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Airport in Palembang, South Sumatra, on Thursday at 8:15 a.m. after a 25-hour trip from the US, and immediately departed to Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency by land.

In the entourage that welcomed Jokowi at the airport was South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Minister Anies Baswedan, Health Minister Nila Moloek and National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Willem Rampangilei.

"The President will work from the OKI regent office for a few days," said Presidential communication team member Ari Dwipayana in a press release on Thursday as quoted by

According to Ari, Jokowi wanted to ensure a more effective handling of forest and land fires as well as haze-affected citizens, especially regarding emergency health services, education and social aid.

Jokowi also wants to take preventive steps as well as open cases against the offending companies.

OKI and Musi Banyuwasin regencies in South Sumatra are currently among the regencies producing the largest number of hot spots.

"The haze [in these regencies] is very wide spread. The smoke is brought by the wind to the north and northwest and is thus blanketing Jambi, Riau and other parts of the region," said Ari.

Jokowi reportedly also plans to survey the Anak Dalam tribe in Soro Langu regency in Jambi and oversee the haze countermeasure efforts in Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan. (kes)(+)

President holds meeting at OKI district head`s official residence
Antara 29 Oct 15;

Ogan Komering Ilir, S Sumatra (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) held a meeting with several ministers at the official residence of Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) district head in South Sumatra on Thursday.

Among the ministers present at the meeting were Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, Health Minister Nila F. Moeloek, Education and Culture Minister Anies Baswedan, and Social Service Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa.

Chief of the Presidential Staff Teten Masduki and South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin also attended the meeting.

Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung informed the press before the meeting that the president had summoned several ministers related to the handing of the haze disaster to attend the meeting.

"He (the president) has also completed his official work and has few free days to focus on the haze disaster," he stated without further elaborating on it.

He noted that the president had an office in OKI district to personally oversee several aspects in order to focus on humanitarian issues.

"The president will also inspect several hotspots and visit the Anak Dalam tribe in Jambi," he remarked.

In case possible, the president will fly to the Central Kalimantan provincial capital of Palangkaraya on Friday evening or Saturday morning. Visits to both Jambi and Palangkaraya have been on the presidents agenda, he pointed out.

"Hopefully, the weather this time will be favorable, so that the president could fly to Jambi and Palangkaraya. The president will fly to Jambi onboard a helicopter instead of the presidential aircraft," he added.(*)

Govt shouldn't focus on haze as national disaster: People's Assembly
Edna Tarigan, 29 Oct 15;

Declaring haze as a national disaster should not be the government's main priority as it would only serve as a ceremonial status, said People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) deputy speaker Mahyuddin.

"[The national disaster] status is only ceremonial. We have to work and solve the [haze] issue even without the status," Mahyuddin told in Kendari in Southeast Sulawesi on Wednesday night.

According to Mahyuddin, the government should focus on other urgent matters such as taking care of haze-affected citizens and reaching for assistance from other countries.

"Our priority is taking care of the haze-affected citizens in addition to tackling the fires since many have died due to acute respiratory infections [ISPA]. The distribution of face masks is also important as there are still many people who haven't received them such as those in Central Kalimantan," said Mahyuddin.

He added that, according to the Health Ministry data, only 165,000 face masks had been distributed in Central Kalimantan where the number of residents reached 2 million.

Regarding the House of Representatives (DPR) plan to establish a Pansus (committee) to inquire into the nation’s handling of land and forest fires, Mahyuddin commented that law enforcement and reviews on national and regional regulations related to the opening of forest and land for industry were among the issues that should be highlighted.

"For example, the Central Kalimantan governor regulation allows the opening of forests and land using the controlled and supervised method of burning. This should be reviewed. We should learn from the disaster that it would be better not to allow the method [at all]. But the government should also provide more support to substitute the method using technical equipment," said Mahyuddin. (kes)(+)

Regional elections to remain on track: KPU
Tama Salim, The Jakarta Post 29 Oct 15;

General Elections Commission (KPU) chairman Husni Kamil Manik has said that raging forest fires and the ensuing smoky haze engulfing much of Sumatra and Kalimantan has not yet affected the conduct of the upcoming simultaneous regional elections.

Husni said he had yet to receive word from his fellow election organizers about any disruptions from the haze in the regions most affected by it, with the elections currently in the campaign phase leading up to balloting on Dec. 9.

“Up until this moment, I haven’t received any information from [election organizers in] the regions pertaining to such worries,” Husni told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a seminar in Jakarta, on Wednesday.

According to the 2015 Regional Elections Law, election organizers have the authority to decide whether balloting will proceed or be postponed in cases of force majeure, such as natural disasters or rioting.

“The authority to postpone lies with the election organizers. All other matters, like the danger posed by the haze, you’ll have to ask the government,” he added.

Husni said he was optimistic that the conduct of the elections would remain unobstructed by the haze, denying that the Home Ministry had indicated there was possibility of postponement.

Also on Wednesday, Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) head Muhammad said that a meeting with Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut B. Panjaitan earlier in the day had concluded that the government was still optimistic about controlling the pollution.

“That’s the point Luhut said this morning, meaning that the KPU and Bawaslu will proceed as planned,” Muhammad said on the sidelines of the seminar.

He said that was the reason President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo cut his US visit short. “Luhut also said that the President had done so to make sure that the haze wouldn’t get in the way of elections,” he explained.

Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo previously said that the upcoming regional elections may have to be postponed if the haze persisted until balloting day. He made it clear that in that case the elections would take place soon afterwards and would not wait until the next round of local elections in 2017.

Data from the People’s Voter Education Network (JPRR) show that 48 regencies and cities may not be able to conduct the elections on time as a result of the smoke, including 14 in Central Kalimantan, seven in South Sumatra, nine in Riau, seven in West Kalimantan and 11 in Jambi.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party lawmaker Fandi Utomo told the Post that the law required the government to declare the haze crisis a national emergency before election organizers could weigh in on the decision to postpone the balloting.

“If the government declares that it isn’t a national emergency, then the local elections cannot be postponed and yet we have to also see whether the ongoing [campaigning] can be carried out in the current situation,” Fandi said on Wednesday.

Fandi, who is a member of the House of Representatives’ Commission II overseeing governance and regional autonomy, has asked the public to wait until legislators are able to determine the effect of the pollution haze on the different stages of the elections.

“We’ll have to wait for the evaluation results; several colleagues from House Commission II are visiting Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan, where it is worst, to review the conditions in the field,” he added.

He said the commission would provide a full evaluation regarding whether the haze negatively impacted the campaigning season on the ground, pending discussions in the next House sitting period starting in mid-November.