Indonesia: Haze starts to blanket Jambi, Riau

Haze starts to blanket Jambi, Riau

(Source: The Jakarta Post, June 19, 2004)


Jambi

Haze from forest fires and land clearing work has blanketed Jambi and Riau provinces on Sumatra island at the start of the dry season.

Despite the haze, local residents went about their daily activities as usual and there were no reports of flights in or out of the area beingdisrupted.

The haze has blanketed Jambi and neighboring Riau for the past two days.

Jambi Governor Zulkifly Nurdin was quoted by Antara as urging all residents to stop burning land in order to prevent the forest fires from spreading.

Local authorities said they had detected as many as 29 hot spots across Jambi, mostly on private industrial plantations and in forestry concessionareas.

The hot spots are located in seven regencies in Jambi: Batanghari, Muarojambi, Bungo, Tebo, Sarolangun, West Tanjungjabung (Tanjabbar) andEast Tanjungjabung (Tanjabtim).

There is fear the fires will spread as no rainfall is expected within the next few days.

Fire has also caused damage in the National Bukit Tigapuluh Park in Tebo, where at least two hot spots have been detected and local officials havewarned that the number of hot spots could increase.

The National Berbak Park has also been damaged by fires that burned brushland in the park.

In Pekanbaru, haze has covered the Riau capital city for the last two days. Residents said the haze was caused by fires in suburban areas.

“Our nose and face hurt if we travel on a motorcycle in Pekanbaru,” resident Muhammad Firman told Antara.

However, no motorcyclists in the city were seen wearing masks despite the chocking haze the covers the city, particularly in the morning andafternoon.

Firman urged the authorities to take immediate action to cope with this problem by extinguishing all hot spots across Riau.

“This should be dealt with or else locals will suffer more losses from the forestfires, even though we weren’t the ones who started the fires.”

In previous years, people on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands have had to suffer through months of suffocating smoke from forest fires and landclearing, disrupting their daily activities and causing illnesses.

Jambi provincial administration spokesman Haroes Saad warned that action would be taken against anyone ignoring the governor’s order to stop burningland.

Jambi forestry office official Joko Fajar said on Friday the forest fires were caused by “recklessness” on the part of residents and forestconcessionaires.

Some of the fires may have started from farmers clearing their land by burningit, with the fires then spreading to adjacent commercial plantations, he said.

“Another possibility is that people are burning land used by concessionaires for their plantations.

“And because these land disputes have not yet been settled, the problem with fires will continue,” Fajar told The Jakarta Post.

The government banned the practice of open-field burning in 1999 after widespread fires caused a thick haze to blanket parts ofIndonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore that year.

The fires sparked diplomatic rows with neighboring countries that are grouped in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

However, enforcement of the law is often lax as corrupt officials turn a blind eye. The annual haze phenomenon is at its worst during the dryseason, which runs from July to October.


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