Haze chokes residents, disrupts travellers

Haze chokes residents, disrupts travellers

17 September 2009

published by www.thejakartapost.com

Indonesia —

The haze covering Jambi city, Jambi province and several areas in Riau over the past few days has threatened people’s health and might disrupt travellers heading home for Idul Fitri.

The level of air pollution has reached 98 parts per million (ppm) in Jambi city, based on the Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU).

“Such a level indicates the air in Jambi city is unhealthy,” said Arfan, the head of Jambi’s Environmental Agency (BLHD) on Wednesday.

Data from the Jambi BLHD showed the ISPU level over the past few days in Jambi city ranged between 77 ppm and 98 ppm.

The data was based on an ISPU detection device the Singaporean government provided. Jambi has three such devices, one in Jambi city and two others in Muarojambi regency.

Arfan said pollution levels of between 100-199 ISPU were categorized as harmful, so Jambi city’s ISPU level of 98 ppm on Wednesday was considered unhealthy and could trigger illnesses.

He added that an ISPU level of between 200 and 299 ppm was very harmful and classified as dangerous above 300 ppm.

“I urge residents to be more alert because this can be dangerous *for them*. They should wear masks when they are outdoors,” he said.

Most people were unaware the air was polluted because they were used to the haze in Jambi, he said, so they no longer consider it dangerous despite the current harmful level.

The haze covering Jambi does not seem to be correlated to the number of hotspots.

Satellite images show hotspots located in two points in the Muarojambi regency, a resident’s farm and an oil palm plantation.

Jambi Forestry Office head Budidaya confirmed the thick haze covering Jambi originated from neighboring provinces, and that in the past week, hundreds of hotspots had been detected in Sumatra, mostly in South Sumatra and Lampung.

The Jambi Meteorological and Geophysics Agency (BMG) warned about wind coming from the south of Jambi, or from Lampung and South Sumatra.

Sahlian Lubis, Jambi City Health Office’s acting head, urged residents in Jambi city to watch out for air pollution in the city and avoid outdoor activities for the time being.

“If they don’t have any important business to do *outside*, they shouldn’t leave the house until the situation in Jambi city returns to normal,” he said.

He added the worst time of the day for air pollution was at dawn, in the afternoon and at night.

Although there have not been any forest fires in the past two weeks, haze has nevertheless returned to blanket several areas in the Riau province recently.

Riau Governor Rusli Zainal said on Wednesday that the haze might be a nuisance to Idul Fitri travellers.

“I asked all related agencies to take measures to address the haze as it could harm travellers and reduce visibility while driving,” Rusli said.

He urged residents to stop clearing land by burning forests, and police to take stern action against land owners who cleared their land by burning it.

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