Indonesia — Health authorities in the Indonesian part of Borneo island have noticed a rise in the number of respiratory ailments in infants since the return of thick haze from forest and ground fires, an official hasrevealed.
There is definitively an increase reported in the number of infants suffering from respiratory problems, said Sukamto, who heads the disease eradication department of the South Kalimantan provincial health office.
South Kalimantan is one of the provinces on Borneo island which have been plagued by annual choking haze from forest and ground fires. Sukamto said the haze could lead to lung infections and pneumonia that sometimes can become fatal.
In Banjarmasin, the South Kalimantan capital, visibility was around 100 metres (330 feet) by 8:00 am but as the sun rose the haze thinned rapidly, said Kusnanto of the local meteorology office. This has been going on since last month. The haze is thick late in the afternoon, during the evening and early in the morning, but the sky clears up as the sun heats up, Kusnanto said on Wednesday.
Thick haze that restricted visibility to below 100 metres was also reported in several South Kalimantan towns and neighbouring Central Kalimantanprovince. Officials have blamed the choking haze on burning conducted for land clearing by both small farmers and large plantationbusinesses. Although the government has banned the practice since 2000, enforcement has beenweak. Last month Kuala Lumpur and surrounding districts as well as the west coast of Malaysia were smothered with a choking layer of haze from forest fires on Indonesias Sumatraisland.
In 1997 and 1998 haze caused mainly by Indonesian forest fires enveloped parts of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Singapore, for months.