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Jakarta Post

RI still vulnerable as haze crisis, fires remain unbeaten

  • Apriadi Gunawan, Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Syamsul Huda M. Suhari

    The Jakarta Post

Medan/Padang/Gorontalo   /   Fri, October 23, 2015   /  03:10 pm

With land and forest fires spreading to almost all of the country'€™s major islands, more residents are struggling to not only survive amid deteriorating air quality but also anticipate further impacts of the disaster on the local environment.

In Jambi, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reported that the concentration of particulate matter (PM10) in the city stood at 738.41 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³) on Thursday morning, confirming the air quality in the city has been at alarming levels in recent weeks.

'€œI'€™m planning to take my four children to Padang [West Sumatra] and let them stay at their grandmother'€™s house. I am afraid that the thick smoke here will affect their health,'€ Ningsih, a local resident, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Authorities consider air quality '€œgood'€ if its PM10 concentration stands below 50 µg/m³, '€œmoderate'€ when the level stands between 50 and 150 µg/m³, '€œunhealthy'€ between 150 and 250 µg/m³, '€œvery unhealthy'€ between 250 and 3500 µg/m³ and '€œhazardous'€ when it surpasses 350 µg/m³.

In the neighboring West Sumatra province, haze with a different level of intensity also blanketed many areas on Thursday.

In the provincial capital of Padang, visibility dropped to 500 meters.

Padang BMKG station spokesperson Budi Iman Samiaji said the PM10 concentration in several regions in the eastern part of the province, including Dharmasraya and Sawahlunto, had been recorded at around 1,000 µg/m³, forcing local authorities to temporarily shut down schools since Wednesday.

Meanwhile in North Sumatra, Kualanamu International Airport spokesperson Wisnu Budi Setianto said that thick smoke had paralyzed almost all airports within the province and neighboring Aceh province on Thursday.

'€œVisibility in many North Sumatran airports stood at below 400 meters. This is the worst situation we have ever experienced,'€ Wisnu told the Post on Thursday.

Apart from Jambi, West Sumatra and North Sumatra, Riau, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan are among the provinces hardest hit by the air pollution originating from fires in peatland and plantations.

In Riau, for example, visibility in Rengat and Pelawan was recorded at 50 meters and 80 meters, respectively, on Thursday according to Pekanbaru BMKG station spokesperson Slamet Riyadi.

The ongoing disaster has also been exacerbated by this year'€™s long dry season, triggered by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Last week, Health Minister Nila Djuwita Anfasa Moeloek reported that the haze had caused 425,377 people from six worst-affected provinces to suffer from acute respiratory infections.

The haze crisis has also recently spread to eastern parts of Indonesia.

In Palu, Central Sulawesi, haze that enveloped the city on Thursday disrupted flights scheduled to depart from or arrive at Mutiara SIS Aljufri Airport, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

'€œI prefer to go home rather than just sitting at the airport'€™s café without clarity,'€ said passenger Astrid Sandagang.

Meanwhile in Papua, smoke produced by land and forest fires in the southern part of the province also continued blanketing Timika, the capital of Mimika regency.

'€œI hoped to see a bright day and inhale clean air when waking up this morning. It turned out that the sky was still dark, covered by smoke,'€ local resident Hermanto told the Post.

BMKG Region V Jayapura on Thursday detected 744 hot spots in Papua, with most spotted in Merauke and Mappi regencies.

Meanwhile in Gorontalo, head of the local Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Syamsuddin Hadju said a recent fire had burned at least 26.5 hectare of a 112.5 ha conservation forest in Tangale Nature Reserve, Tibawa district, Gorontalo regency.

Rizal Harahap in Pekanbaru, Ruslan Sangadji in Palu and Nethy Dharma Somba in Jayapura also contributed to this article

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