Meteorological Conditions and Firein South East Asia
28 February 2002
Indonesia haze shuts schools, threatens neighbours
JAKARTA – Thick choking smoke caused by forest fires closed schools in parts of Sumatra yesterday and experts say it could threaten Indonesia’s neighbours in the next few days as the wind is expected to change direction.
The head of the Environmental Impact Control office in Indonesia’s Riau province on Sumatra, just across the Strait of Malacca from Singapore and Malaysia, said
authorities were working to isolate the fires and prevent more breaking out.
“Currently the wind is blowing to Sumatra… so we suffer from the haze (but) according to the weather analysts at the end of this month the wind will change direction and turn to our neighbours,” Naili Saidi told Reuters by telephone.
“The level of haze is different in every area. In Bengkalis’s capital Duri, the thickness is considered dangerous and schools have been closed,” he said, but added that overnight rains had helped clear the smoke in several areas.
Saidi said there were around 100 hot spots identified in Riau and 10 in Malaysia according to a recent report.
Authorities in Riau said teams were working to put out the fires but expressed concern about the possible spread of the haze to Singapore and Malaysia.
“We don’t want this disaster to get worse, just like several years ago which affected our neighbouring countries. If that happens, it will ruin economic activity between
Indonesia and its neighbours,” Edi Yusti, Riau government office spokesman, told Reuters.
“We are doing our best to handle the fires… besides that we also continually inform people not to burn trees or bushes to expand plantation land,” he added.
Haze has been a regional concern since the mid-1990s. In one of the worst episodes smoke persisted for weeks in 1997, forcing many offices and schools to close,
sparking warnings for the young and elderly to stay indoors, and getting the blame for respiratory and other health problems.
Tourism in large parts of Southeast Asia was also hit.
Indonesia has drawn most of the criticism for the outbreaks of smoke, attributed to causes ranging from fires started in the process of logging and clearing of land for
plantations to slash-and-burn farming. Sumatra and Indonesian areas of Borneo have been the main fire locations.
Source and Cpoyright: Planet Ark
For further Information on South East Asia see Daily Update of 27 February 2002.