Indonesia:Thick haze threatens Riau, Aceh, Kalimantan
Publishedby The Jakarta Post, 7 June 2003
Jakarta, 7 June 2003. The annual choking haze has reached alert levels on mainland Riau, including the provincial capital of Pekanbaru, with authorities warning residents to stay indoors as much as possible.
The reappearance of the haze, which has occurred annually for the past decade due to the burning of rainforests on Sumatra and Kalimantan, has been met with the same authorities calling for action to be taken but little is ever done against the military dominated forestry companies. Riau health office deputy chief Ekmal Rusdi said on Friday that the thick smoke had reached alarming levels. “We call on the people to stay indoors as much as possible, especially at nights. The conditions can cause respiratory problems and lung diseases,” he was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying.
Many residents in Pekanbaru were observed wearing cloth around their faces for protection as they travelled in the open. The thick smoke covers several regencies in the province following fires in supposedly protected rainforests in Dumai, Minas and Kampar and in forest areas in the regencies of Rokan Hulu and Rokan Hilir. “A fire is still burning in the conservation forest along the Dumai River and in the Bukit Rimbang and Bukit Baling conservation forests in Kampar and Minas regencies,” Natural Resources Conservation Unit (BKSDA) chief in Riau Jhon Kenedie said.
Jhon called on relevant authorities to take action against individuals and companies using fire to clear land for farm and plantations because besides having triggered the chocking haze, the fire had spread to protected forests, home to thousands of rare species. With the help of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Singapore, the provincial administration has detected a large number of hot spots throughout the province.
The Environmental Management Agency (Bapedalda) said NOAA satellite imagery had located 10 major fire areas in forests owned by timber companies PT Sumatra Sinar Plywood, PT Rokan Permai Timber and PT Arara Abadi.
Authorities at the Sultan Syarih Hasyim airport said the haze had not yet affected air operations in the province.
The haze is also threatening to hit the war-torn province of Aceh on thenorthern tip of Sumatra island, due to fires in the regencies of Aceh Singkil and Central Aceh. The haze has begun to affect motorists in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar regency. The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) in Banda Aceh said the haze covered parts of the city but had yet to affect airport operations.
Meanwhile, authorities in Kalimantan repeated warnings that the haze covering parts of the island could affect the people’s health and daily activities unless the burnings stopped. The South Kalimantan administration has put in place heavy penalties for individuals and companies using fires to clear land for farms and plantations. Local forestry office deputy chief Basuniansyah said it had detected 73 hot spots in 14 regencies in the province. Most were located near and inside company owned forests. “Our team is still in the field investigating,” he claimed.
West Kalimantan Governor Usman Ja’far warned plantation companies and forest concession holders against setting fires, saying any violators of environmental and forestry laws should be taken to court. He said all regents and mayors in the province should be aggressive in preventing the fires that had plagued the province.