Indonesia refuses Singapore’s help in forest fires

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 12 Sep 15;

Indonesia has declined Singapore’s offer to assist the Indonesian government in fighting forest fires as Singapore and parts of Malaysia continued to be blanketed by clouds of smoke originating from the island of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

While Indonesia greatly appreciates the offer, the government is well-equipped to handle the current situation, according to Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

“Right now there are already 17 aircraft ready for water bombing and cloud seeding and we will also deploy an additional three planes,” she told The Jakarta Post on Friday, adding that the aircraft have been stationed in five provinces affected by forest fires.

Singapore again extended the assistance package it has been offering the Indonesian government since 2005. Singapore Environment and Water Resources minister Vivian Balakrishnan conveyed Singapore’s concern at the deteriorating situation to Siti, according to a press statement by the Singapore National Environment Agency.

Siti denied talking to Vivian on Thursday.

The package Singapore offered comprised one C-130 aircraft for cloud seeding operations, up to two C-130 aircraft to ferry a fire-fighting assistance team from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), a team from SCDF to provide assessment and planning assistance to their Indonesian counterparts in their firefighting efforts, high resolution satellite pictures and hot spot coordinates and one Chinook helicopter with one SCDF water bucket for aerial firefighting.

“According to available information, Singapore will send one or two aircraft with the water bombing capacity of around 5,000 liters. What we use [at the moment] already have capacities of between 3,000 and 5,000 liters, plus
we rent Air Tractors from Australia. So I think [the assistance from Singapore] is not yet needed because our fleet is already numerous. But we thank them for the offer,” Siti said.

Vivian also called for urgent action to be undertaken, including stricter enforcement against the perpetrators and the identification of those responsible for the haze in order to facilitate appropriate action.

Singapore has repeatedly urged Indonesia to publicly share maps on agricultural concessions owned by oil palm, timber and other commodity companies, which are often blamed for starting the fires, particularly in neighboring Sumatra.

Doing so will send an unequivocal signal that ASEAN countries are prepared to be transparent and hold individual companies accountable for their actions, according to Singapore.

The Indonesian government, however, has refused to comply, with Siti saying that Indonesian laws prevent the government from sharing concession maps.

During a meeting in Jakarta in late July, environment ministers from five ASEAN nations, including Indonesia, agreed to sharing information on a government-to-government basis that would help identify plantation companies on whose land fires start and cause haze.

The director general of climate change at the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry, Nur Masripatin, told the Straits Times, however, that Indonesia could not disclose any plantation concession information, even on a government-to-government basis.

“Disclosing whose concession a certain hot spot is in would amount to disclosing a concession map,” said Masripatin, who is in charge of overseeing efforts to contain forest and land fires and who reports to Siti. “That is classified information. The government cannot do that.”

Singapore and Malaysia recorded alarming levels of air pollution on Thursday as the Indonesian government has yet to quell forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Jakarta declines help to fight fires
Environment minister says country has the resources to handle haze-inducing blazes
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 13 Sep 15;

Large parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan were choking in a thick haze yesterday, but Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar was reported to have said that Indonesia has no need for Singapore's offer of aircraft to fight the growing outbreaks of fires.

In Malaysia, 18 areas recorded unhealthy pollution levels yesterday morning, including Kuala Lumpur, its neighbouring states and Sarawak on Borneo island.

The number of fires in Indonesia has soared in recent weeks and Singapore has offered help to combat them. The assistance package offered to Indonesia included a C-130 military transport plane for cloud seeding, up to two C-130s to ferry a firefighting assistance team from Singapore to Indonesia and a Chinook helicopter with a water bucket for aerial firefighting.

Ms Siti said that Indonesia had enough planes and equipment to deal with the crisis.

Her comments were confirmed by the ministry's chief spokesman, Mr Eka Soegiri, when The Sunday Times contacted him yesterday.

In a statement last night, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) confirmed that, for now, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would not be deployed to Sumatra.

"While the Indonesian authorities accepted our offer of assistance initially, they have since expressed appreciation for the offer and said they have sufficient resources of their own for now.

"Mindef/SAF remains in close contact with the Indonesia authorities and stands ready to help if required," the statement said.

The number of hot spots in Indonesia has surpassed the number recorded in mid-2013, when uncontrolled fires in Sumatra triggered record levels of haze in Malaysia and Singapore.

The Pollutant Standards Index hit 401 in June that year.

This time round, there were more fires in Kalimantan than in Sumatra, said Mr Andika Putraditama, a Jakarta-based research analyst at the Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI), a global research organisation that provides data analysis on the fires.

Current wind patterns mean the haze above Kalimantan will affect Sarawak, but not Singapore.

The crisis, though, is no less severe in Sumatra, with hundreds of fires reported within plantation concessions and nearly half the fires affecting peat lands.

Jambi and South Sumatra provinces have recorded the most fires in the past week.

An analysis by WRI between Sept 5 and yesterday showed more than 400 fire alerts in pulpwood concessions in Sumatra. WRI named nine companies, including one firm with 219 fire alerts. The majority of the companies are listed as suppliers to Singapore-based Asia Pulp & Paper. The analysis lists 44 fire alerts for palm oil concessions in Sumatra.

In Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province, thick haze paralysed Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport yesterday, reducing visibility to only 100m, Jakarta Post reported. "No planes could fly," said airport duty manager Hasnan.

In Palembang, South Sumatra, the worst-affected province on the island, hundreds of residents held a mass prayer yesterday.

"We ask God to promptly give us rain. What we do here should complement the firefighters' efforts in the field," Mr Fajar Sani Nasution, a Palembang resident, told reporters.

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Hazy conditions continue, events cancelled as a result

Today Online 13 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE — Hazy conditions persisted this morning (Sept 13), with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) entering 118-139, the low end of the unhealthy range, as at 9am. The 3-hour PSI was at 165.

In its haze update yesterday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that air quality is expected to enter the low end of the unhealthy range over the next 24 hours, with the 24-hour PSI possibly entering the mid to high sections of the unhealthy range if denser haze from Sumatra is blown in.

This morning’s Singtel-Singapore Cancer Society Race Against Cancer run was cancelled as PSI levels were still within the unhealthy range as at 9pm yesterday. Organisers of the running event said they made the decision “for the safety and health of runners, volunteers, staff and beneficiaries”.

Registered 15km and 10km runners can collect their finishers’ medal at the Singapore Cancer Society office instead.

A second event, the POSB PAssion Run For Kids, cancelled the 10km Adults' Competitive race and Kids' Run categories this morning citing the 3-hour PSI reading of 147 at 5am as the reason. However, the 3.5km Family Walk is still scheduled to proceed, provided the PSI level at 8am is below 150, according to a statement from organisers.

Participants of the competitive races can collect their medals at the carnival, which is still on, according to POSB. Alternatively, medals can be collected at a later date, with organisers announcing more details soon.

POSB said: "Like you, we are disappointed as we have been looking forward to the run. However, your health and safety are of utmost importance to us, and we seek your kind understanding."

Hazy conditions continue; air quality enters low end of unhealthy range
Today Online 12 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE — Hazy conditions continued today (Sept 12), with the air quality mostly in the moderate range. However, air quality is expected to enter the low end of the unhealthy range over the next 24 hours, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) possibly entering the mid to high sections of the unhealthy range if denser haze is blown in, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in its 5pm update.

As at 11pm, the 24-hour PSI entered into the low end of the unhealthy range, standing at 90-107. The 3-hour PSI was at 106, dropping from 147 at 4pm.

Tomorrow morning's Singtel-Singapore Cancer Society Race Against Cancer run has been cancelled as today's PSI levels are still within the unhealthy range as at 9pm. Organisers of the running event said they have made the decision “for the safety and health of runners, volunteers, staff and beneficiaries”.

Registered 15km and 10km runners can collect their finishers’ medal at the Singapore Cancer Society office instead.

The haziness is due to haze from Sumatra being blown in, said the NEA.

The total number of hotspots detected in Sumatra yesterday was 304, and widespread moderate to dense haze was observed in central and southern Sumatra, with some haze spreading to the western parts of Peninsular Malaysia, said the NEA.

Healthy persons are advised to reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while the elderly, preggant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor or physical exertion. Those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. People not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention.

Haze causes tourism gloom in Singapore
Melanie Heng, Seow Yun Rong, Siti Nur Aisha Omar, The New Paper AsiaOne 13 Sep 15;

The reputation of sunny Singapore as a tourist destination is taking a beating with the gloom brought on by the haze.

Take Indian national Ramya Sivaramakrishnan whose four-day break in Singapore has been ruined by the smog.

The New Paper team spotted her pushing a pram with her crying, sick daughter at Gardens by the Bay.

The toddler was coughing and having trouble breathing due to the haze.

"It's so disturbing. Not only do my eyes and throat feel irritated, but for the past three days here, I couldn't take my daughter to Sentosa," said Madam Ramya, 33, who is here with her daughter, husband and mother.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) level yesterday reached a new high this year of 211 - very unhealthy range - at midnight.

The TNP team visited Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, Orchard Road and Singapore Botanic Gardens to talk to those affected by the haze.

Across from Marina Bay Sands, Swiss national Andrew Tritz, who is on a 12-day stay in Singapore, was clearly frustrated with his inability to snap clear scenic shots of the iconic Singapore skyline.

The 25-year-old said that it was only his second day here and the haze was already a problem.

But even if the haze worsens, he said he would continue going to outdoor places just to make the trip worthwhile.

Mr Julian Veber, 21, a tourist from Luxembourg, said that the haze had hit his father hard.

His 55-year-old father, who has lung problems, experienced breathing difficulties that caused him to walk slower even in indoor areas like The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands where they were spotted.

It also stopped them from outdoor activities such as going to Universal Studios Singapore on Sentosa.

An Indonesian visitor who wanted to be known only as Madam Theodora, 54, an accountant , said her flight from Jakarta to Singapore was delayed for 25 minutes on Tuesday because of the haze.

She added that the haze was rather bad here but was unprepared when she landed as she did not have a mask with her.

She said: "The people who are causing the haze are troublemakers, now others are suffering because of them."

Despite the hazy view across Marina Bay Sands, two local students braved the conditions to perfect their paintings of the Singapore skyline.

Miss Jolene Quek, 20, a second-year engineering student from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and Miss Clara Soh, 20, a second-year occupational therapy student from Nanyang Polytechnic, sat on the ground outside Marina Bay Sands for more than two hours, sketching and painting a clear Singapore Skyline - a far cry from the hazy conditions.

As Miss Quek looked at her painting, she said: "We shouldn't let the haze affect our lives".


The haze has put a dampener on businesses, big and small.

Ms Irene Lim, a 50-year-old helper at an ice-cream stall on Orchard Road, noticed that there were fewer customers patronising the stall due to the haze.

As people streamed into indoor areas, open-air diners and businesses saw a decrease in customers.

Miss Nicole Robert, 21, an employee of South Coast, an Australian bistro and bar at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, said that there was a 20 per cent drop in customers during the peak lunch hours yesterday.

Some sports events were also affected.

Ultimate frisbee player Matthew Seong, 22, a second-year engineering student in SUTD, said the Singapore University Games initiated by the Singapore University Sports Council had to be cancelled.

The Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League match between title rivals Albirex Niigata and Tampines Rovers was also called off.

The game was scheduled to kick off at 7.30pm at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

It was initially delayed but the three-hour PSI reading yesterday steadily rose from 160 at 6pm to 193 at 9pm.

The game was called off at 9.08pm.

Hazy conditions to persist on Saturday: NEA
In an advisory, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the haziness throughout the day was due to the haze from Sumatra being blown in by the prevailing winds.
Channel NewsAsia 12 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: Hazy conditions are expected to persist on Saturday (Sep 12), with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) at the high end of the Moderate range.

As of 11pm, the 24-hour PSI was 90-107, while the corresponding 3-hour PSI was at 106.

In an advisory, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the haziness throughout the day was due to the haze from Sumatra being blown in by the prevailing winds. Even though there were only 53 hotspots detected in Sumatra on Saturday, NEA attributed the low hotspot count due to cloud cover.

"Widespread moderate to dense haze was observed in central and southern Sumatra. Haze was also observed to have spread to parts of the western Peninsular Malaysia," added NEA.

Hazy conditions are also expected on Sunday.

"The 24-hr PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the low end of the Unhealthy range but may enter into the mid to high sections of the Unhealthy range if denser haze is blown in," said NEA.

The air quality in Singapore was in the Unhealthy range throughout Friday (Sep 11). A total of 304 hot spots were detected in Sumatra, Indonesia, on Friday, down from 328 on Thursday.

“Singapore may experience occasional hazy conditions during the day” on Saturday, said the NEA. The 24-hour PSI is expected to be in the “low end of the Unhealthy range, with the possibility of entering the high end of the Moderate range if winds remain favourable”, the agency added.

The air quality in Singapore reached unhealthy levels on Thursday, with the 3-hour PSI peaking at the year’s highest of 248 at 3am on Friday.

Indonesia on Thursday accepted Singapore's offer of help in fighting the forest fires that are causing hazy skies in the Republic and Malaysia, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

- CNA/wl

Thick haze hits Sumatra, but Singapore gets respite
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Sep 15;

Singapore got a respite from the haze yesterday, as wind directions changed, but tens of thousands of Indonesians in Sumatra and Kalimantan continued to face hazardous levels of air pollution caused by raging forest fires.

The air pollutant index in Riau and other provinces affected by thick haze - which also include Jambi, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan - was mostly between unhealthy and hazardous levels yesterday. A reading above 300 is considered hazardous. Thick haze also blanketed the Malaysian capital yesterday.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has accepted an offer from Singapore to help combat the raging forest fires, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

Tens of thousands of Indonesians have been treated for respiratory illnesses caused by smoke from hundreds of forest and land fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, with dry weather set to last for several more days, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said yesterday. Across many areas, schools have been shut and flights delayed.

Nearly 15,000 residents in Riau province in Sumatra, near Singapore, suffer from upper respiratory infections. Also affected are 22,855 residents in South Sumatra and about 40,000 in South Kalimantan, said a BNPB statement yesterday.

Nearly all five provinces in Kalimantan were shrouded in smoke, said BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. Kalimantan had 1,312 hot spots, of which 508 were in the worst-affected West Kalimantan province, as of 5am Jakarta time yesterday, satellite imagery showed.

Kalimantan is suffering its worst haze this year, in terms of the area shrouded in haze. Sumatra listed 575 hot spots, of which 78 per cent were in South Sumatra province.

POSB PAssion Run for Kids cancelled due to haze
The 3.5km Family Walk is still scheduled to proceed, provided the PSI level at 8am is below 150, organisers say.
Channel NewsAsia 13 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: The worsening air quality in Singapore has resulted in another outdoor event being cancelled, as organisers of the POSB PAssion Run For Kids pulled the 10km Adults' Competitive race and Kids' Run categories from its lineup on Sunday morning (Sep 13).

POSB issued the notice at 5.04am, citing the 3-hour PSI at 147 as the reason for cancelling the events. It did say the 3.5km Family Walk is still scheduled to proceed, provided the PSI level at 8am is below 150.

For the participants of the competitive races, they may collect their medals at the carnival. Alternatively, they can collect the medals at a later date and organisers will announce more details "shortly", it added.

"Like you, we are disappointed as we have been looking forward to the run. However, your health and safety are of utmost importance to us, and we seek your kind understanding," POSB said, adding that the carnival is still on.

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong will be at the event to launch a SG50 commmemorative book that envisions what the country will be like in the next 50 years, the organisers said.

This cancellation follows in the heels of another event that was cancelled due to the haze. The Singtel - Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) Race Against Cancer was called off on Saturday due to the worsening air quality here.

- CNA/kk

Race Against Cancer 2015 cancelled due to haze
“In light of the poor air quality, and for the safety and health of runners, volunteers, staff and beneficiaries, Singtel, the title sponsor, and Singapore Cancer Society have decided to cancel the race,” said organisers.
Channel NewsAsia 12 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: The Singtel - Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) Race Against Cancer has been cancelled due to haze.

“In light of the poor air quality, and for the safety and health of runners, volunteers, staff and beneficiaries, Singtel, the title sponsor, and Singapore Cancer Society have decided to cancel the race,” said organisers in an announcement on Saturday night (Sep 12).

The race was scheduled to happen on Sunday at 7am, but as of 9pm, the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) levels continued to remain within the unhealthy range, said SCS.

Organisers added that they would not be able to provide a refund.

"We are unable to provide refunds for your registration fee due to set up costs that have already been incurred," they wrote in an FAQ post on their Facebook page. "We sincerely appeal to you to regard your registration fee as a donation to SCS, to support our programmes and services in Minimising Cancer and Maximising Life."

The FAQ also explained why they would not be able to postpone the event.

"We are unable to postpone this event to a later date as the costs incurred in doing so will lead to an additional expense, which would cause a breach in fundraising regulations that have been set for voluntary welfare organisations," organisers wrote. "This will also impact the funds that we have set aside for our programmes and services.

"In addition, a postponement to any possible later date this year would be affected by poor weather during the monsoon season as well as the exam and holiday periods."

Registered 15-kilometre and 10-kilometre runners who wish to collect their finishers’ medals from SCS can do so at their office from Sep 14 to 30, Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm. They just need to bring their Race Bib upon collection.

The office is at 15 Enggor Street, Realty Centre, #04-01, Singapore 079716.


Separately, the SAFRA Celebration Run & Ride and the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run will also be happening on Sunday.

Both race organisers have said that they will closely monitor the PSI figures and inform racers on Sunday at 5am of any change in plans.

SAFRA wrote on their Facebook page at 5.30pm on Saturday that they would send an SMS notification to participants if the 5km and 1.5km runs would continue to take place.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Ribbon Project Singapore said they would watch the 24-hour PSI and 3-hour PSI readings at 5am on Sunday, and if they exceeded 100, "both the 10km competitive run and 6km fun run will be cancelled and a 6km walk will be available for all participants".

"If PSI reading exceeds 200, both the 10km competitive run and 6km run will be cancelled and buses will proceed to the carnival site which has many exciting activities for everyone to enjoy," they added.

The Yellow Ribbon Project Singapore will also be sending an SMS notification at 5am, along with updates on their social media, website and mobile app.

- CNA/ek

Haze disrupts race organisers' plans
Samantha Boh, Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Sep 15;

The financial district was shrouded in haze yesterday afternoon. The 24-hour PSI was within the moderate range of 51 to 100 for most of yesterday before creeping into unhealthy levels in the evening.

The haze could get worse in Singapore today as winds from the south and south-west continue to blow in smoke from Sumatra. This has prompted organisers of several races today to consider whether they should go on.

The Singapore Cancer Society decided to cancel this morning's Race Against Cancer just after 9pm last night. Fees for the annual fund-raising run were between $29 and $59, and a spokesman confirmed to The Sunday Times that no refunds will be given due to set-up costs that were already incurred.

The society posted on its website that it was calling off the run "for the safety and health of runners, volunteers, staff and beneficiaries".

Participants for today's Yellow Ribbon Prison Run were told to wait till 5am - an hour before it is set to start - before a decision would be taken. It is organised by the Yellow Ribbon Project, which aims to help former prisoners rejoin society. On its website, POSB also said it would make a decision on its Passion Run for Kids depending on the three-hour PSI reading at 5am.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said last night that the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) is expected to be at the low end of the 101 to 200 unhealthy range. This may climb into the mid to high sections if denser haze is blown in by unfavourable winds.

The 24-hour PSI was within the moderate range of 51 to 100 for most of yesterday before creeping into unhealthy levels in the evening. By 11pm, the readings were between 90 and 107.

The three-hour PSI reading climbed to 147 at 4pm.

Yesterday saw a drop in the number of hot spots detected in Sumatra from 304 to 53. But NEA noted the low count was due to cloud cover over some areas.

The elderly, pregnant women and children are advised to minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor activity when the 24-hour PSI exceeds 100. Those suffering from chronic lung or heart disease should also avoid such activities.

- See more at:

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Malaysia: 18 areas record unhealthy API readings

The Star 12 Sep 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Eighteen areas in several states in the peninsula and Sarawak recorded unhealthy air pollutant index (API) readings as at 9am Saturday.

Besides Sarawak, the affected areas were Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak and Selangor, stated the Department of Environment (DOE) in its website.

Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur recorded the highest API reading of 162, followed by Port Klang (161), Samarahan (158), Shah Alam (157), Petaling Jaya (148), Kuala Selangor (147), Kuching (142) and Nilai (141).

Other areas were Sri Aman (136), Banting (134), 132 in Seremban, Cheras and Putrajaya, Jerantut (120), Bukit Rambai (108), Seri Manjung (107), Port Dickson (106) and Bandaraya Melaka (101).

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

The public can access, for updates. - Bernama

Haze condition improves in Sarawak
SHARON LING The Star 12 Sep 15;

KUCHING: The haze situation in Sarawak improved slightly overnight although three areas continue to experience an unhealthy air quality level.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) dropped to 127 in Kuching, 145 in Samarahan and 121 in Sri Aman at noon on Saturday, compared to the highest readings of 167, 184 and 177 respectively on Friday afternoon.

In Kapit, Sarikei and Sibu, the API was 68, 85 and 76 respectively while Limbang and Miri had good air quality with the API at 35 and 49.

A reading of 100-200 indicates unhealthy air quality, 201-300 very unhealthy and 301 and above hazardous. Anything below 50 is good air quality and 51-100 moderate.

Visibility in Kuching also improved to 1.4km at noon on Saturday from under a kilometre on Friday.

Meanwhile the Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) has postponed its Animazing Race to Oct 25 because of the hazy conditions.

It was originally scheduled for this Sunday.

SSPCA president Dona Wee said the postponement took into account concern for the safety and health of the runners and those involved in the event as well as directives from the authorities.

"We had been advised to postpone the race due to the unhealthy air quality which is dangerous to health.

"The current hazy condition is also making visibility limited and this will pose a danger to participatings running along the route in the early morning," she said.

Apologising to those who had registered for the race, Wee added that SSPCA had to take heed of the directives for the safety and health of the runners.

Two flights to Sibu delayed due to thick haze
ESTHER LANDAU New Straits Times 12 Sep 15;

KUCHING: Two MASwings flights scheduled to depart to Sibu from Kuching International Airport (KIA) have been affected by the haze as of 10am.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd KIA senior manager Mohd Nadzim Hashim said the ground visibility in Kuching was about 2,400 metres.

“The two MASwings flights were delayed and both involving departures, which affecting some 100 passengers.

“No cancellations so far.

Other flights operation in and out of the KIA went on smoothly as scheduled,” he said in a statement.

As of 11am, the Air Pollutant Index (API) at three divisions, namely Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman remained at an unhealthy level.

However, according to the Department of Environment (DOE) website today shows that there is a slight improvement in the API reading for Samarahan with 151 compared to 176 yesterday.

Followed by Kuching with 132 compared to 167 and Sri Aman reads 126 compared to 163.

Haze until end of the month
LOH FOON FONG The Star 12 Sep 15;

PETALING JAYA: The haze is expected to continue until the end of this month and the Meteorological Department will carry out cloud seeding if the Air Pollutant Index (API) goes beyond 100 for three consecutive days.

Science, Technology and Innova­tion Minister Datuk Madius Tan­gau said yesterday that the department, toget­her with the air force, would conduct cloud seeding if the atmosphere and cloud situation were suitable.

“The increase in the number of hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan and the hot and dry season over the last few days had resulted in the severe haze in Sarawak and several states in the ­pe­­­ninsula,” Madius said in a statement.

The department has also issued poor visibility warning for ships travelling in the Strait of Malacca, Sarawak, Labuan and the west coast of Sabah.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the dry and haze sea­­son was expected to end with the start of the inter-monsoon season in October.

As of 11am yesterday, 17 areas had unhealthy air quality readings.

Among the worst were Port Klang which recorded an API of 164; Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur (157); Shah Alam (156); and Kuala Selangor (151).

LKIM: There’s enough fish supply
The Star 13 Sep 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) has assured that there will be enough supply of fish despite visibility difficulties faced by fishermen due to the haze.

LKIM chairman Datuk Irmo­hizam Ibrahim said there were 100 tonnes of fish stock on standby.

“The drop in supply is not critical yet, but we have made a request with the National Fishermen’s Association to release 100 tonnes of fish stock if needed,” he said after the 36th General Assembly of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly closing ceremony on Friday.

Irmohizam said if there was a lack of supply in the market, the association would release the stock to ensure prices were stable and supply was adequate.

“We are also concerned about the safety of fishermen at this time,” he added.

He said fish stock were fish caught and kept in cold storage for the purpose of food security and 100 tonnes of fish could last two to three months.

Read more!

Indonesia: 1,500 soldiers deployed to fight forest fires in South Kalimantan

Antara 11 Sep 15;

Banjarmasin, S Kalimantan (Antara) - Some 1,500 soldiers have been deployed to fight land and forest fires in South Kalimantan and prevent them from spreading, a spokesman said.

Under an agreement reached at during a coordination meeting of stakeholders, the Antasari District Military Command 101 Station has been appointed as the main command post to fight forest and land fires in the region, the Commander of the Antasari District Military Command 101, Col. M Abduh Ras, said on Thursday.

"We will coordinate with other forest fire mitigation teams, such as the National Disaster Mitigation Board (BNPB), the Natkional SAR Body (Basarnas), the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) and local fire departments," he said.

The soldiers in the 13 districts and municipalities in South Kalimantan will cooperate with other forest and land fire mitigation teams to extinguish hotspots as part of efforts to prevent the fires from spreading, he said.

"The soldiers we have deployed come from all forces, the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, as well as the police," he said.

Ras said the soldiers would make every effort in the field to put out the fires, using both traditional and modern methods.

Hotspots have now been found in almost all districts of South Kalimantan, including Banjar, Tanah Laut, Tabalong, and Barito Kuala, he said.(*)

Officer of Indonesian ministry dies when extinguishing forest fire in Sukabumi
Antara 13 Sep 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - An officer of Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) died when he was trying to extinguish land and forest fires in Ciemas sub-district, Sukabumi District, West Java, an official said.

"Dulman Efendi, chief of forest resort of Cikepuh wildlife preservation Suaka Margasatwa died while extinguishing the forest fire," head of the local Technical Division of Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Munarto told ANTARA here on Saturday.

Munarto further said that Dulman Efendi passed away when he was leading a team of forest fire fighting after the Friday prayer (September 11).

Until Friday (Sept 11) as much as 37 forest fires incidence occurred in Wildlife Cikepuh covering a total area of 337.4 hectares.

The fire incidence occurred on August 31 to September 11.

Earlier, the Head of Emergency and Logistics division of the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Sukabumi District, Usman Susilo said on last Wednesday that the forest fires had also burnt 30 hectares of land in Puncak Bukit Habibie in Kampung Pasir Randu, Pasirbaru Village, Cisolok sub-district, Sukabumi.

1,887 hotspots detected in Sumatra and Kalimantan
Antara 12 Sep 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said the number of hotspots detected in Sumatra and Kalimantan has continued to increase despite the governments efforts to intensify its emergency operations.

"Although we have launched emergency operations, hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan have continued to increase, reaching 1,887 points," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a press statement in Jakarta on Saturday.

Some 1,887 hotspots were detected by the Terra and Aqua Satellite on Friday at 5 a.m. Western Indonesia Standard Time (WIB). It included of 575 hotspots in Sumatra and 1,312 in Kalimantan.

In Sumatra, the hotspots were mostly detected in South Sumatra Province with 449 points, Jambi Province with 93 points, Bangka Belitung Province with 49 and Riau Province with 11 such spots.

In Kalimantan, a total of 1,312 hotspots were detected, with 508 being located in West Kalimantan, 127 in South Kalimantan, 579 in Central Kalimantan, 95 in East Kalimantan and four in North Kalimantan.

BNPB Chief Willem Rampangilei said on Friday that operational plans to put out forest and bush fires should be carried out simultaneously.

"Human resources should be deployed to prevent new fires, intensify popularization efforts and enforce the law," he said during a meeting on fire extinguishing efforts held in Palembang, South Sumatra.

He further said that BNPB will borrow a MI-171 helicopter from Papua to put out fires in Palembang.

Therefore, BNPB will also coordinate with the Ministry of Transportation regarding flight permits for 1,050 military personnel, who are attached with the BNPB to help fire extinguishing efforts.(*)

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Indonesia: Hectares of forest in Mt. Rinjani national Park illegally felled

Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post 12 Sep 15;

Trees on 50 hectares of land in Mount Rinjani National Park (TNGR), in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), have been felled by locals who claim the area is custom land they had owned for generations.

The head of the park management, Agus Budiono, told The Jakarta Post in Mataram on Thursday that land clearance had occurred in Bebidas subdistrict, Wanasaba district, East Lombok regency, since mid-July.

Besides cutting down trees, Agus said, locals also used heavy equipment to clear the land.

“We have reported the case to the East Lombok and NTB police,” Agus said.

He said the report had been made because the concerned people had failed to show ownership deeds for the land, which was located within the area managed by the park.

Agus said he had filed the report with the East Lombok Police in July, but no significant development in the case had been made. “That’s why this week we reported the case to the NTB Police, hoping that they will follow it up.”

Agus said the park, as stipulated in Forestry Minister Decree No. 280/kpts-II/1987, covered 41,330 hectares located in four administrative areas in West, Central, East and North Lombok regencies.

A number of NGOs and environmentalists expressed support for the move.

They said the slow handling of the case had resulted in more than 50 hectares of forest in the park being cleared. Unless stern action is taken, more damage could be done.

World Wide Fund Indonesia’s small islands partnership and governance leader Muhammad Ridha Hakim said that as a national park, Rinjani had an unique ecosystem that was managed using a zoning system for research, science, education, cultivation, tourism and recreational purposes.

The government has been striving to make Rinjani a world geopark, which was expected to have economic benefits and keep the area’s ecosystem functional.

“The TNGR is an important conservation area for the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources globally,” Ridha told journalists in Mataram on Thursday.

He said letting such illegal activities continue and doing nothing about it was a violation of Law No. 41/1999 on forestry and Law No. 18/2013 on forest damage prevention and eradication.

Similarly, East Lombok Gema Alam NGO chairman Muhammad Juaini said people had economic reasons for such actions, yet such motivation was based more on short-term consideration without considering the sustainability aspects.

He also said a thorough study was needed to determine whether illegal mass land clearance was committed at the people’s own initiative or whether there were opportunistic parties behind them.

“We ask the authorities to investigate the relationship between the people damaging the forest and other parties that encouraged them to go so far,” Juaini said.

The NGOs and environmentalists also encouraged the police to take stern measures against those damaging the park.

“We also encourage the environment ministry, and especially the TNGR, to improve the roles and functions of the TNGR conservation area,” he said.

The NGOs and environmentalists said the national park had yet to make economic and environmental contributions, leaving people and local administrations unable to see the benefits of the park.

Separately, NTB Police spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Tribudi Pangastuti confirmed that the TNGR management had filed a report regarding the alleged illegal land clearance within the national park.

“We are examining the report and will follow up on it,” Tribudi said.

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