Indonesia: Schools in Jambi close due to choking haze

Schools in Jambi close due to choking haze

Source: The JakartaPost, 09 September 2004

by Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post, Jambi

The haze in Jambi and Central Kalimantan provinces worsened on Wednesday, prompting local authorities, particularly in Jambi province, to close several schools. Haze continued to disrupt flights throughout the day and residents in both provinces had difficulty breathing. The head of administrative affairs at the Jambi Education Office, Hidayat Chatib, said several schools in the province had ceased activities since Tuesday due to the worsening haze. Nita, a student at Al Falah elementary school, said she and her classmates were told by their teachers to take a holiday until the haze subsided. She had no idea when the students would return to school.

Meanwhile, Jambi Health Office staff distributed thousands of masks to students in several regencies, including Batanghari, Muarojambi, East Tanjungjabung and West Tanjungjabung, where schools remained open. Some business-minded Jambi residents took advantage of the haze by selling masks to passersby on the streets. Masks are being sold for Rp 1,500 (16 U.S. cents) to Rp 3,500 each The masks have become a practical need against the choking haze in the province Meanwhile, the Jambi Environmental Impact Management Agency recorded the haze density on Wednesday at 511 particulate matters per 10 micron, much higher than the 377 particulate matters per 10 micron on Tuesday. The haze has increased the number of delayed flights to and from Jambi for the third consecutive day, as visibility is below 500 meters in the mornings and afternoons. Head of Sultan Thaha Airport Management M. Sidabutar said the density of haze fluctuated throughout the day, but the lowest visibility was in the mornings and afternoons.

The haze, sparked by forest and ground fires, will likely persist for the next few weeks, as local authorities said they faced difficulties in extinguishing the fires. Jambi Forestry Office head Gatot Moeryanto said their firefighters could not put out the fires in several forests due to inaccessibility. The difficulty was compounded by the lack of water during the dry season, Antara news agency quoted Gatot.

Separately, the blanket of thick haze continued on Wednesday to cover Central Kalimantan, especially in provincial capital Palangkaraya and Sampit, the capital of East Kotawaringin regency. Antara reported that several residents had complained of breathing problems. As in Jambi, Central Kalimantan residents have taken to donning masks to protect themselves from the haze.

The thick haze is believed to have been caused by burning peat bogs in Kalampangan subdistrict, Palangkaraya, and ground fires along nearby roads connecting Pangkalan Bun and Palangkaraya with Sampit. The local administration has been combating the fires, but has been unable to extinguish them.


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