Haze thickens in Sumatra, delays forestry minister
published by Jakarta Post
Haze thickened on Thursday in several parts of Sumatra, causing flight delays and school shutdowns. The flight delays affected many people, including the Minister of Forestry M.S. Kaban, who is partly responsible handling the haze problem. Firman, chief of the Meteorological and Geophysical Agency (BMG) at Polonia Airport in Medan, said that Kaban’s flight had to be delayed because of thick haze over the Sibolga area that was in his aircraft’s flight path.
The thick haze in Sibolga had reduced pilot visibility to 400 meters, far below ideal visibility of between 2,000 and 3,000 meters, he said. “For the sake of safety, the flight had to be delayed,” said Firman. Firman said that the haze blanketing the Sibolga area was the result of forest fires in Riau and North Sumatra provinces. In Riau province, the agency detected 588 hot spots on Thursday, while in North Sumatra six hot spots were detected. “The wind has blown the haze to the Sibolga area,” said Firman.
The haze lifted in the afternoon, allowing Kaban and his entourage to head to Sibolga. However, the incident certainly inconvenienced the Minister, keeping him waiting for seven hours at Polonia Airport. Kaban, who was about to inaugurate Batang Gadis National Park in Mandailing Natal regency near Sibolga, finally reached Pinang Sori Airport in Sibolga at 1 p.m. “We were not disappointed for our own sake. Safety has to be our first priority,” said Kaban.
In the Riau capital of Pekanbaru, three schools in the city were closed on Thursday due to the thickening haze. On Wednesday, visibility in the city was between 500 and 600 meters, but later on Thursday, visibility dropped to 300 and 400 meters. The thick haze prompted some entrepreneurial people in Pekanbaru take advantage of the situation. Mask sellers became ubiquitous in the city streets. Hendra, a mask seller, said that half of 100 masks he brought had been sold. In Jambi, haze has blanketed the city for the past month, with no signs that it will soon disappear.
On Thursday, visibility stood at between 300 and 500 meters, with some residents complaining of respiratory and eye irritation problems. “The government is not serious about tackling the haze problem. It has persisted since last month, but there have been no efforts by the government to tackle it,” said Irawati, a Jambi resident. Joko Fajar, chief of the Forest Fire Management Agency in the province, said that the thick haze prevailed in the city following forest fires in East Tanjungjabung and Batanghari regencies. “There are currently six hot spots in the two regencies,” said Joko, who promised that he would deploy firefighters to help put out the fires.