Best of our wild blogs: 10 Sep 15

Grey-rumped Treeswift at Bishan: 1. Incubation Period
Bird Ecology Study Group

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Hazy conditions still expected despite 'slight improvement' after rain: NEA

Thundery showers on Wednesday afternoon (Sep 9) brought a "slight improvement" to the air quality, but hazy conditions can still be expected through Thursday, says the National Environment Agency.
Channel NewsAsia 9 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: Thundery showers on Wednesday afternoon (Sep 9) brought a "slight improvement" to the air quality, said the National Environment Agency (NEA), but hazy conditions can still be expected for the rest of the day and Thursday.

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) at 10pm was 70-77, which is in the Moderate range, while the 3-hour PSI at the same time was 96. On Tuesday, the 24-hour PSI neared the Unhealthy range (101 to 200).

In an advisory, NEA said that hazy conditions can still be expected on Wednesday and Thursday as prevailing winds are forecast to blow from the south and southwest. Showers are forecast for Singapore in the late morning and early afternoon on Thursday.

"The 24-hour PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the high end of the Moderate range and low end of the Unhealthy range, and may further deteriorate if the winds are unfavourable," NEA added.

- CNA/dl/ms

Haze to linger amid showers as more hot spots seen
Today Online 9 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE — The haze hovering over Singapore is expected to linger tomorrow (Sept 10), said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Although it was still hazy today, thundery showers in the afternoon improved air quality for the rest of the day.

As at 7pm today, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was 69 to 77 in the high end of the moderate (51 to 100) range, but down from 83 to 95 at 7am.

A total of 140 hot spots were detected in Sumatra island in Indonesia today, an increase from 38 yesterday.

Moderate to dense smoke haze was also observed in southern Sumatra, said the NEA.

Hazy conditions are expected again tomorrow with showers expected in the late morning and early afternoon.

The 24-hr PSI is expected to be in the high end of the moderate range and low end of the unhealthy (101 to 200) range.

The PSI may further deteriorate if the winds are unfavourable, said the NEA.

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Haze: ASEAN must work together

Verdinand Robertua Jakarta Post 9 Sep 15;

Thick haze is blanketing the cities of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Many flights have been delayed or canceled and residents are wearing masks to avoid respiratory diseases. Schools are closed and business has been put on hold.

Indonesia is back in the international spotlight, becoming ever more infamous for burning its forests.

Annual forest fires contribute 60 percent of Indonesia’s total greenhouse gas emissions, making the country the third-largest emitter after China and the US.

Transboundary haze resulting from the forest fires has angered Indonesia’s neighbors. ASEAN launched in 2002 the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AAHTP), but Indonesia did not ratify it until Sept. 16, 2014.

The agreement is designed for technical and operational cooperation on transboundary pollution. Its goal is to prevent and monitor transboundary haze pollution as a result of land and/or forest fires that should be mitigated through concerted national efforts and intensified regional and international cooperation.

For ASEAN, the agreement is a breakthrough and an extraordinary innovation. The Kyoto Protocol also deals with forest fires, but it is non-binding.

However, with Indonesian forests smoldering once more, has the AAHTP already failed?

Studies have blamed member states for mismanaged environments. According to Lidia Fera Kogoya, a student studying the impact of the agreement on forest fires, the AAHTP is a failure because individual ASEAN governments are not serious about implementing the treaty. One important follow-up should be an ASEAN haze center to coordinate haze policies.

Meanwhile, University of Sydney researcher Syarif, who has studied regional arrangements on transboundary pollution, argues that the lack of willingness of member states’ leaders to “sacrifice” some of their national sovereignty for the sake of the community is one important factor in the failure of regional haze management. Syarif notes that progressive measures taken by the EU on acid rain mitigation were partly due to the adoption of legal instruments such as official directives on air quality standards, something absent from ASEAN.

Yet governments alone are not to blame. We have to question slash-and-burn methods used by transnational companies and local land owners. Under this practice, farmers cut down some vegetation on a patch of land before setting fire to the remainder.

According to satellite images, 70 percent of hot spots are on local plantations. The Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (CRISP) at the National University of Singapore shows that hot spots are found mostly in palm oil plantations. Slash-and-burn is the cheapest and quickest method for clearing land and is used by 200 to 500 million people worldwide. In 2004 it was estimated that in Brazil alone, 500,000 small-scale farmers each cleared an average of one hectare of forest per year.

The slash-and-burn method is banned in Indonesia. Indonesian police can prosecute suspected firestarters under a number of laws, including the 1999 law on forest management, the 2005 law on plantations and the 2009 law on environmental management. Companies found guilty of burning land for plantations can face substantial fines, while their executives can face up to 15 years in prison.

In 2014, the South Sumatra Police arrested two employees of state-run plantations for burning part of a sugar plantation.

If slash-and-burn is illegal, why isn’t it being stopped? Many businesspeople and land owners continue to profit as much as they can regardless of the environmental impact.

Some companies with links to the government are believed to have bribed officials, enabling support of their continued illegal practices.

Underpaid government officials, combined with the prevalence of disreputable businesspeople and politicians, mean logging bans go unenforced, trafficking in endangered species is overlooked, environmental regulations are ignored, parks become timber farms and fines and prison sentences never come to pass.

The solutions are obvious. Indonesian farmers and transnational companies have to comply with regulations and apply zero-burning techniques. Indonesian police must seriously enforce the law. ASEAN must empower states to prevent and mitigate the impact of fires. Large palm oil-consuming companies like Unilever should apply strict standards for the suppliers of their raw materials.

In his book Endangered Planet, Richard Falk argues environmental mismanagement is an “inevitable result of a defective set of political institutions”.

In the case of forest fires, what inhibits a common regional plan for action to overcome the fires is not the system of states, but human disagreement and conflict in the ecological realm itself.

The weakness of the AAHTP therefore also includes the role transnational companies and local land owners play in the slash-and-burn methods that constitute the major factor in forest and land fires.

The writer is a lecturer in international relations at the Christian University of Indonesia (UKI) and a researcher at Marthinus Academy

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Malaysia: Indonesia urged to take steps to combat smog

The Star 9 Sep 15;

PETALING JAYA: The Indonesian government must take necessary steps to combat the haze that is affecting the region, said Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

The National Institute of Occupa-tional Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman said that while it was a relief that the Indonesian government had agreed to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transbou­ndary Haze Pollution, it was important to see the implementation of this agreement.

“I hope the Indonesian government will be able to set aside a bigger allocation to their provinces affected by the forest fires,” he said.

Lee said haze had become an annual problem to countries neighbouring Indonesia, causing poor health to citizens.

On Tuesday, Indonesia became the last country to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, marking a historic step in the collective efforts by member nations to tackle the annual smog.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Deputy Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri said the haze was among the environmental issues tackled at the 26th Meeting of Asean Senior Officials on the Environment (Asoen) in Kuala Lumpur.

He said transboundary haze pollution was one of the most persistent and challenging issues within the Asean community.

“I strongly believe that with our collective efforts, together with strong political support from Asean member states, our agenda to be a haze-free region will soon be achieved,” he said during his opening speech yesterday.

Speaking to reporters later, he said the ministry was closely monitoring the Air Pollutant Index in the country and depending on the situation, cloud seeding would be discussed with the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.

“There is no need to panic. The situation has not reached dangerous levels. If it does, depending on factors such as hotspots and wind direction, necessary action will be taken,” he added.

ASEAN Haze-free Region Will Soon Be Achieved?
Bernama 9 Sep 15;

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 (Bernama) -- ASEAN haze-free region agenda will soon be achieved following the full ratification of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri said the agreement, coupled with the political support from ASEAN member states could turn the agenda into reality.

"I strongly believe that with our collective efforts through the full ratification of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, together with the strong political support from ASEAN member states, our agenda to be 'Haze-Free Region' will soon be achieved," he said.

He said this when the opening the 26th Meeting of the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment and Related Meetings (ASOEN) here today.

Hamim said transboundary haze pollution remained one of the most persistent and challenging issues for ASEAN and its community.

"We must therefore endeavour to find concrete solutions and maintain our momentum in tackling the transboundary haze pollution issue," he said.


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Malaysia: Sabah to become key timber producer again in five years

RUBEN SARIO The Star 10 Sep 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is set to become a key timber producer again in about five years but much of it will no longer come from the natural forests here.

The state is expected to produce about five million cubic metres of timber annually.

Almost all of it would come from tree plantations currently maturing, said Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan.

“We are aiming for an income of as much as RM500mil (RM2.16bil) per year once the harvesting from the tree plantations is in full swing.”

He said the tree plantations mostly belonged to the state-owned Yayasan Sabah, producing quality timber of local tree species.

Mannan said the tree plantations were part of a massive sustainable forest management (SFM) initiative which the Sabah government had undertaken since 1997.

Other key sources of revenue will include the collection of fees for entry into recreational areas such as certain forest reserves and parks.

He said the department was anticipating selling carbon credits through programmes such as Malua Bio bank which could generate up to US$34mil (RM147mil) per year.

“This is possible as there is much international concern over climate change,” Mannan added.

He said they were also expecting to collect some RM50mil in royalties from Yayasan Sabah from its 100,000ha of oil palm plantations which the foundation had been allowed to develop from a portion of harvested timber concession.

“The royalty is in addition to the oil palm tax the state government collects from the industry,” he said.

On Tuesday, Mannan told an international conference on environmental education that the Sabah government had sacrificed substantial forest revenue by adopting the SFM initiative that led to a stop in unsustainable methods of timber harvesting.

He said revenue from Sabah forests peaked in 1979 at RM1.1bil. This dropped to RM150mil last year.

“We expect revenue to decline further to about RM100mil this year,” said Mannan, adding that the situation would gradually improve.

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Malaysia: Haze disrupts Kuching flights

The Star 10 Sep 15;

KUCHING: The haze is so thick in southern Sarawak that several flight landings have been disrupted.

A Malaysia Airlines flight to Kuching from Kuala Lumpur aborted its first landing attempt due to the low visibility yesterday.

The airline confirmed this to The Star but said the second attempt was successful.

“MH2504 executed a go around due to poor visibility during the approach to land at Kuching airport,” the airline said in a brief statement.

Disrupted flight landings were also reported at Kuching airport last week.

Despite the heavy rain on Monday evening, the haze did not clear.

Overnight, visibility worsened from 1.5km to just 1km yesterday morning. By 4pm, visibility was only 500m.

All of the state capital was enveloped in a thick haze.

The Air Pollutant Index for the city hovered in the high 90s throughout the afternoon, while it was 103 at Samarahan, a suburb about 10km away.

API readings of between 0 and 50 indicate good air quality; 51 and 100 (moderate), 101 and 200 (unhealthy), 201 and 300 (very unhealthy) and over 301 (hazardous).

The Singapore-based Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) has elevated Kalimantan (which borders Sarawak and Sabah) to alert level three, the most severe.

Since last week, Sumatra has also been at level three.

It said the current dry weather conditions over Borneo island was expected to continue.

Under the prevailing wind conditions, transboundary smoke haze could continue to spread to Sarawak and other parts of the region, the centre warned.

In Kota Kinabalu, parts of Sabah have been enveloped in moderate haze since Tuesday, with visibility being reduced to 4km in the east coast Tawau district.

Sabah Meteorological Services Department director Abdul Malik Tussin said the visibility in Tawau however improved to 7km on Wednesday.

The state’s west coast including Kota Kinabalu was also shrouded in haze yesterday with visibility reduced to 8km.

Abdul Malik noted that haze conditions were better in Sabah than other parts of Borneo with visibility being reduced to 1km in Kuching and 2km in Brunei.

Air Quality Worsens Again In Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman
Bernama 9 Sep 15;

KUCHING, Sept 9 (Bernama) -- As haze- affected Melaka and Nilai in Negeri Sembilan saw an improvement in the air quality as at 8 pm, Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman in Sarawak saw a decline.

The Air Pollutant Index in Melaka and Nilai switched from 'unhealthy' to 'moderate' while the API in the three Sarawak cities worsened to 'unhealthy'.

The website of the Department of Environment showed the API reading for Kuching at 103 as at 5 pm and moving up to 107 at 8 pm.

Samarahan had an API reading of 103 at 3 pm, which rose to 130 at 8 pm. The API reading for Sri Aman rose from 102 at 4 pm to 111 at 8 pm.

API readings of between 0 and 50 indicate good air quality; between 51 and 100, moderate; between 101 and 200, unhealthy; between 201 and 300, very unhealthy; and over 301, hazardous.

Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman experienced unhealthy air quality for several days last month. The API returned to moderate on Aug 25.


Air Quality Deteriorates In Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman
Bernama 10 Sep 15;

KUCHING, Sept 10 (Bernama) -- The haze in Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman has deteriorated as of this morning.

The Environment Department in its website stated that the air pollutant index (API) reading for Samarahan as at 8 am rose to 163, compared to 130 at 8 pm last night.

The API for Kuching read 137 compared to 107 at 8 pm last night and Sri Aman recorded 142 compared to 111.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is categorised as good, while 51 to 100 is moderate; 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy) and 300 and above (hazardous).

Seven other areas in Sarawak recorded moderate air quality level; in Sabah, only Sandakan recorded good air quality with an API reading of 46 while three other areas recorded moderate API readings.

The federal territory of Labuan recorded an API reading of 69 (moderate).


Low visibility due to haze disrupts aircraft arrivals and departures at Kuching International Airport
GOH PEI PEI New Straits Times

KUCHING: Low visibility due to haze disrupts aircraft arrivals and departures at Kuching International Airport as the Kuching division recorded an unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 146 as of 10am today.

The problem had inadvertently affected outbound flight from the airport.

According to a Bintulu-bound passenger, who requested anonymity, said his AirAsia flight that was supposed to depart from the airport at 9.35am have been delayed to an unidentified time.

“I was told by an AirAsia ground staff that the flight had departed from Sibu and transit in Kuching before heading to Bintulu.

“However, due to the thick haze, the aircraft could not land in Kuching.

“And I learned that there are other aircraft from other airlines that are facing the same problem,” he said, adding that the airport was getting crowded due to the delays.

Senior Airport Manager Mohd Nadzim Hashim confirmed that there were disruptions in the flight landings for a number of airlines.

“The problem with the haze is that arrival flights cannot land due to low visibility, which in turn, contribute to link delay for departure.

“The ground visibility at the Kuching International Airport is between 800m and 1000m. The pilot for the respective aircrafts will decide whether to land or divert the flight.

“So far, we have not faced any problem with flight departure,” said Nadzim.

The haze had also disrupted the operations at the Miri Airport in Miri, said a MASwings spokesman.

“Yes. It is confirm that some flights have been delayed. It is the usual weather problem that we have no control,” he said.

Meanwhile, other parts of the state that are badly affected by the haze included the Samarahan and Sri Aman divisions, which registered an unhealthy API reading of 171 and 148 respectively.

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Indonesia braces for the worst in haze

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 9 Sep 15;

Thick haze produced by land and forest fires has continued to blanket several parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, forcing local authorities to temporarily shut down schools and prompting airlines to ground their aircraft on safety concerns.

In West Sumatra, the administrations of Payakumbuh municipality, Limapuluh Kota and Dharmasraya regencies, have temporarily shut down all schools from Tuesday until Thursday to prepare for the impact of worsening haze in their respective regions.

“Students were told to take days off, starting today. My daughter, who is a ninth grader, is studying at home,” Payakumbuh resident Yulfian Azrial told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

West Sumatra Health Agency head Rosnini Savitri said almost all regions in the province were covered in haze on Tuesday, with Dharmasraya, Limapuluh Kota and Payakumbuh suffering the most.

“Fortunately, this is not the first time local residents have experienced this [haze]. They are now better prepared to face it and understand the impact of haze on their health,” Rosnini said.

The Jambi municipal administration also sent all students home on Tuesday. The administration’s spokesperson, Abu Bakar, said the measure had to be taken as air quality in the Jambi provincial capital had reached a dangerous level and could put children’s health at risk.

Local authorities in many parts of the country, particularly 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, the province’s health agency reported that 15,234 people had suffered from haze-related illnesses, with the majority of them suffering from acute respiratory infection (ISPA).

Riau Health Agency head Andra Sjafril said on Tuesday that air quality in the province had reached an “unhealthy” level, with visibility in the morning ranging from 100 to 400 meters.

The management of Sultan Syarif Kasim II International (SSK) Airport in Pekanbaru also reported that low visibility in the Riau provincial capital had disrupted 22 flights to and from the airport on Tuesday.

“Sixteen flights were delayed while six others have been canceled,” SSK II general manager Dani Indra Irawan said, as quoted by Antara news agency.

In Central Kalimantan, the provincial transportation agency also reported that, from Aug. 22 to Sept. 6, 50 flights scheduled to leave or arrive in the province had been canceled while 80 others had experienced delays due to the fluctuating intensity of haze in the province.

“Most [flight] cancellations and delays occurred in the morning when visibility was only 700 meters,” the agency’s air transportation division head, M. Kasturi told Antara.

Haze from Sumatra was also reported to have reached neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Several areas in western Malaysia, including the capital Kuala Lumpur, recorded unhealthy air quality, the AFP reported on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday called on people in the country to take preventive measures to minimize health impacts from the haze, which has been predicted to blanket the city-state until Wednesday.

“Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, healthy people should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion,” the NEA said in its advisories.

In response to the worsening haze and escalating pressure from the public, the Indonesian government announced on Tuesday that it would freeze or revoke permits of concession holders whose land had been burned.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry, as the coordinator of the newly established haze emergency national task force, said that the government had decided to impose administrative sanctions even before the ministry took the cases to court.

“The Environment and Forestry Ministry decided to take a new approach. While the legal proceedings [of forest fires] continue, decisions need to be made and steps need to be taken regarding the permits of the firms in question,” Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar told a press conference at her office in Jakarta.

During his recent visit to Ogan Komering Ilir regency in South Sumatra, among the regions hit hardest by forest fires, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo instructed the government to revoke the concession permits of palm oil company PT Tempirai Palm Resources.

Hans Nicholas Jong in Jakarta and Jon Afrizal in Jambi contributed to the article

Haze issues to worsen: Indonesia
Rizal Harahap and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, Jakarta Post AsiaOne 9 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 realise 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 realise 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 or S$38 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 neighbouring countries.

Lack of equipment, personnel hinders Sumatra fire-fighting
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Sep 15;

A lack of equipment and firefighters in regions hit by forest and peat fires is hampering operations as thick haze disrupted flights in parts of Sumatra.

Air quality hit hazardous levels yesterday in Pekanbaru and Dumai, both in Riau, Indonesia's second- closest province to Singapore.

The visibility level in Dumai, about 270km north-west of Singapore, was as low as 100m in the early morning. The city's Pinang Kampai airport was closed yesterday and on Monday.

"The haze this year is beginning to resemble that in 2013. Last year, the airport was never closed for two days in a row," Mr Toto Sumartono, operations manager for Pelita Air, told The Straits Times from Dumai. A minimum visibility of 1,000m is required before planes are allowed to land or take off.

In Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau, province visibility fell to 200m in the early morning.

Flights in and out of Jambi were also cancelled on Monday and yesterday.

An official of the local meteorological office warned that the problem will remain until next month, when heavy rain is expected.

"For sure, the whole of September, the weather will be dry. We are expecting very light rain above the eastern part of Jambi in the next two to three days, but that is not enough to help put out fires," Mr Bahar Abdullah told The Straits Times.

Elsewhere in Indonesia, officials on the ground continued to struggle with a shortage of equipment even though Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency has set aside 385 billion rupiah (S$38.5 million) for fire-fighting operations.

The Musi Banyuasin regency in South Sumatra province yesterday appealed to the provincial government for help as it needed to expand the scale of operations to prevent fires from spreading.

"We need them to send in helicopters to do water bombing in our regency. We have exhausted ground operations... Many fires are located in remote areas in the forests," acting regent Beni Hernedi told reporters on MetroTV.

A fire is reported almost every hour in West Kalimantan's Ketapang regency, where the local authorities said they needed more equipment and personnel, Kompas daily reported. The regency too has appealed to the provincial government for assistance.

Yesterday, an Indonesian MP apologised for the haze currently blanketing the region, The Star reported.

Mr Hamdhani Mukhdar Said, who is in charge of the environment and international relations, said he would raise the issue with the Indonesian Parliament and ask for more to be done to deal with the haze.

"I want to apologise to the Malaysian people for the haze. The annual haze is not intentional but due to the drought that affects parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan," he told reporters during a break in the 36th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in Kuala Lumpur.

The haze is a result of widespread clearing of forests in Indonesia for oil palm plantations.

Not only does it affect neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, but it also makes life miserable for about 22.6 million residents in Sumatra and three million in Kalimantan.

Haze Affects Indonesia Flights, Worsens Air Quality in Singapore
Rieka Rahadiana Bloomberg 8 Sep 15;

Smog from forest fires on Indonesia’s Sumatra island is disrupting flights at a number of local airports and fouling air quality as far away as Singapore and Malaysia.

At least six airlines canceled flights Tuesday from Sultan Thaha Airport in Jambi city, after all flights there were canceled Monday, transport ministry spokesman J.A. Barata said. No flights were operating Tuesday morning at Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Riau province.

The haze, caused by farmers who burn forests to clear their land for agriculture, is an annual occurrence that sends smog wafting northward to Singapore and Malaysia. Those governments have complained to Indonesia, and Singaporean legislators last year passed a law allowing regulators to prosecute companies involved in illegal forest burning.

The smog can send air quality in Singapore and Malaysia into hazardous territory, defined as a reading above 100 on the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index. Tuesday’s PSI reading in Singapore was 86, down from 121 Monday evening and far below the record of 401 set in June 2013.

Flights were operating as normal Tuesday from Singapore’s Changi and Seletar airports.

Visibility Tuesday morning was as little as 300 meters (984 feet) at Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II airport in Palembang in the southern part of Sumatra, and was 500 meters in Riau. Carriers such as PT Garuda Persero TBK, Sriwijaya Air, Lion Air and Citilink have canceled all flights to and from Jambi, and could maintain the cancellations through Thursday, the transport ministry’s Barata said.

The fires are exacerbated by the local dry season. Indonesian authorities warned last week that this year’s haze will be worse than in previous years, the Bernama news agency reported, and could last through end-November.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Sumatra on Sunday to survey the government’s response to the problem. Malaysia’s natural resources minister is due to visit soon to discuss possible solutions with his Indonesian counterpart.

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