Indonesian military planes to fight haze

Indonesian military planes to fight haze

26 August 2006

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JAKARTA: Indonesia said yesterday it would deploy two military planes to fight forest fires creating a choking haze in Sumatra and Borneo.

The planned deployment of the C-130 planes, equipped with cloud-seeding devices, were a “short-term measure” to fight forest fires in the Indonesian section of Borneo and in the provinces of South Sumatra, Jambi and Riau, said Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie.

“Although it does not 100 per cent solve the problem, it can reduce the impact of the disaster,” Bakrie was quoted by the state Antara news agency as saying.

The Government would allocate up to two billion rupiah (RM806,700) for the project, Bakrie said, adding that the planes would also drop water on burning forests and land.

Haze continued yesterday to smother parts of Riau’s provincial capital of Pekanbaru and disrupted three flights from landing at the city’s international airport, said airport chief Alexius Kismoyo.

Visibility in the vicinity of the airport dropped to 500 metres early yesterday but improved to one kilometre by 6pm, allowing other flights to depart or land, Kismoyo said.

“The smoke is still visible and it stings the eyes and nose.”

Burning in Indonesia to clear land for crops causes an annual haze that afflicts Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as well as Indonesia itself.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz on Thursday urged Indonesia to crack down on forest fires and warned that the choking pollution was hurting economies and deterring tourists.

“We have to contend that this is something that will happen unless real serious efforts are being put by the Governments where the haze originates,” Rafidah said.

Malaysia’s worst-affected region so far this year has been in Sarawak where Kuching had an unhealthily high reading of 157 last week.

The Indonesian Government has outlawed land clearing by fire but weak enforcement means the ban is largely ignored. — AFP


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