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Jakarta Post

BNPB new chief pledges to get rid of haze in two weeks

  • Rizal Harahap and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb

    The Jakarta Post

Pekanbaru/Padang   /   Thu, September 10, 2015   /  11:00 am

A day after being appointed the head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Willem Rampangilei pledged on Wednesday to clear up in two weeks the haze currently blanketing Sumatra.

'€œIn two weeks, that is what we are going to do. We will do our best,'€ Willem said in his first official visit to Pekanbaru, Riau, after replacing Samsul Ma'€™arif.

Indicators of success, he said, would include airports in the regions operating normally without disruption from haze, sending students back to school and reducing symptoms of acute respiratory infections (ISPA).

Willem said his visit to Riau was not meant to take over the responsibility of local administrations in combating forest and land fires, arguing what they needed to do was intensify and strengthen what had already been undertaken.

'€œPeople have suffered for far too long. The haze escalation is no longer disruptive but has threatened the health of many people,'€ he told a press conference held at the Riau forest and land fires emergency task force premises at Roesmin Nurjadin Air Base in Pekanbaru.

He said the economic loss caused by the haze could not be dismissed as insignificant. Quoting a 2013 World Bank report, he said that the total financial loss that Riau suffered from the haze amounted to Rp 20 trillion (US$1.4 million).

He said that, after being sworn in as BNPB head and receiving instructions from President Joko Widodo to put an end to the haze in Sumatra and Kalimantan, he stipulated a deadline to finish dealing with the haze within two weeks.

He added he would focus his work on the three provinces of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra, and that the haze there would be dealt with comprehensively.

Meanwhile in West Sumatra, rain that poured over various areas, including Padang, Padang Pariaman, Bukittinggi and Payakumbuh on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning helped the haze subside.

'€œRain fell only three hours after students of state-run Islamic high schools in Payakumbuh and residents of two subdistricts in Limapuluh Kota regency conducted Istisqo mass prayer to ask God to send rain,'€ Fajar of Payakumbuh said.

Head of the observation and information section of Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency'€™s (BMKG) Padang office, Budi Imam Samiaji, said that medium to heavy rains pouring in from some regions did help the haze subside on Wednesday.

'€œThe rain in Padang was light, but it increased the visibility up to 7,000 meters at Minangkabau International Airport,'€ said Budi, adding that the visibility at the airport was previously, at its worst, only 1,500 meters due to the haze.

Budi also predicted that the chance of rain in some regions in West Sumatra was still high until mid-October.

'€œWest Sumatra is still in a transition period. There is potential for rainfall amid a few days of heat. This has made us optimistic that the haze will not worsen,'€ Budi said.

While the new BNPB chief promised to clear Sumatra from the haze, many areas in Kalimantan affected by the thick smog might require a longer time to improve.

In North Barito, Central Kalimantan, the regency environment agency head Suriawan Prihandi said that a test of air quality in the region revealed that the air was not healthy at all due to the worsening haze.

'€œThis can have a adverse impact on human health, especially in terms of an increase in the number of ISPA sufferers,'€ Suriawan said as quoted by Antara news agency, recommending residents to curtail outdoor activities.

The city'€™s education agency secretary Mahlani said the administration decided to send elementary students home for a week to avoid them suffering health problems due to the haze.

'€œThe holiday is just for students, not for the teachers who have to work and prepare student examinations,'€ Mahlani said.

The Kalimantan chapter of Bank Indonesia has provided and distributed around 10,000 masks to students in the capital city of the province.

'€œWe have prioritized the distribution of the masks to students,'€ the bank'€™s deputy head, Abas Sumarna, said.

The BMKG station at Temindung Airport of Samarinda, East Kalimantan said Terra and Aqua satellites detected 131 hot spots in East Kalimantan and North Kalimantan on Wednesday.

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