Antara, Indonesia — Indonesia denied Wednesday that forest fires on Sumatra and Borneo islands were responsible for causing a haze which has smothered areas in nearby Malaysia this week.
Satellite imaging showed about 100 scattered hotspots caused by land and forest fires around the main town of Pekanbaru in Sumatra’s Riau province on Wednesday, said forestry ministry spokesman Masyud.
But he said the hotspots were too spread out to have caused the haze that hit Kuala Lumpur and its surrounds on Tuesday, Masyud said.
“There are also hotspots caused by forest fires found on the Malaysian peninsula and in the Philippines. We have some too, but they are not so many and too scattered,” Masyud told AFP.
Masyud said lesser forest fires were also burning in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province on Borneo.
The meteorological office in Pekanbaru however said that satellite imaging showed about 200 hotspots burning in four separate areas in Riau, with the largest located in Indragiri Hilir district, southwest of Malaysia’s Malacca.
Visibility in the provincial capital was limited to one kilometer (0.62 miles) at 10:00 am (0300 GMT) on Wednesday, he said.
“The haze is quite thick although there was some rain yesterday (Tuesday),” an official with the agency who gave his name as Ibnu told AFP.
“But wind directions are changing all the time, so it’s a bit difficult to blame the (fires) for being the cause of the Malaysian haze,” he said.
The air pollution index in Kuala Lumpur hit 83 on Tuesday morning, according to Malaysia’s environment department. A reading of 101 to 200 on the index is classified as “unhealthy”, while a moderate reading is between 51 and 100.
In western Port Klang the reading was 89, while in several other western areas it was at moderate levels.
Indonesia has banned the practice of using fire to clear land but enforcement remains weak.
Burning in Indonesia and some parts of Malaysia to clear land for crops causes an annual haze that afflicts countries in the region, includingSingapore and Thailand.