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Jakarta Post

Chronic haze leaves locals in anger, frustration

  • Jon Afrizal and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb

    The Jakarta Post

Jambi/Padang   /   Mon, September 28, 2015   /  06:25 pm

Smoke from massive land and forest fires has continued to blanket much of Sumatra and Kalimantan, frustrating local residents whose activities have been severely disrupted by the environmental crisis.

In Jambi, the local branch of the Indonesian Advocates Association (Peradi) and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) are planning to file a class-action lawsuit against 15 companies deemed responsible for land and forest fires in the province.

'€œDue to the haze, schools are temporarily shut down, airports are unable to operate and people are suffering from acute respiratory infections [ISPA]. We will file our lawsuit soon to the court,'€ Peradi'€™s Jambi branch chief Suratno said Sunday.

Jambi Walhi executive director, Musri Nauli, said the NGO'€™s latest data showed that fires had burned 33,000 hectares of land in Jambi.

'€œWe are demanding the 15 companies to jointly pay Rp 7 trillion [US$478.8 million] in compensation [to local residents] and another Rp 44 trillion for the recovery expenses,'€ Musri said.

Over the past weeks, air pollution from fires in peatland and plantations has severely affected several regions in Sumatra and Kalimantan, including Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, West Sumatra and Central Kalimantan. The ongoing crisis has also been exacerbated by this year'€™s prolonged dry season, caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

In Pekanbaru, Riau, thousands of passengers were stranded at Sultan Syarif Kasim (SSK) II International Airport on Sunday, as 36 flights were cancelled after visibility at the airport dropped to only 50-300 meters, Antara news agency reported.

Meanwhile, a number of regions in the eastern and central parts of West Sumatra province have also been blanketed by thick haze over the past four days.

Andika, a resident of Limapuluh Kota regency, said visibility in his hometown was only 100 meters. Light rain on Saturday night had not cleared up the haze, he said.

'€œWe have to drive very carefully and leave the lights on to avoid traffic accidents,'€ Andika told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

In Dharmasraya, a regency bordering Jambi and Riau, the local environment agency on Sunday declared the air pollution level in the region as '€œdangerous'€.

Agency head Rahadian said downpours had reduced the intensity of haze in the region earlier this month. The haze, however, has thickened again due to the absence of rain over the past two weeks.

'€œThe haze thickened on Thursday with the air pollutant standard index [ISPU] at an '€œunhealthy'€ level. The next day, the index increased to '€œdangerous'€ level [and has remained there] until today [Sunday],'€ Rahadian told the Post.

Thick haze in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, also reduced the visibility in the city to only 10-20 meters on Sunday.

'€œTo be honest, we can no longer stand inhaling this thick haze,'€ Antonius, a local resident, said, as quoted by Antara.

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