Haze worsens in Riau and Jambi, schools shut down

Haze worsens in Riau and Jambi, schools shut down  

26 August 2015

published by www.thejakartapost.com


Indonesia–   Haze has worsened in the neighboring provinces of Riau and Jambi on Sumatra Island during the last few days, forcing local authorities to send students home.

In Riau, visibility continued to decrease.

Based on observations conducted by the Pekanbaru office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), visibility in the provincial capital on Tuesday morning was only 500 meters.

In Rengat and Dumai, visibility was 2 and 3 kilometers respectively.

“The haze has also negatively impacted the air quality in various regions in Riau. It is currently at moderate to unhealthy levels, or between 100 and 199 PSI,” head of the office’s data and analysis section, Slamet Riyadi, said on Tuesday.

He said the haze that is presently covering various regions in Riau came from provinces in southern Sumatra due to the wind that blew from the southeast to the west and the north throughout Riau.

Among the provinces blamed for having sent the haze to Riau were Jambi and South Sumatra, where 33 and 38 hot spots respectively were detected on Tuesday morning.

Slamet said that the Terra and Aqua satellites on Tuesday morning also detected six hot spots in Aceh, two in Lampung and one in Bengkulu.

“In total there were 85 hot spots detected across southern Sumatra,” he said, adding that the same satellites detected only four hot spots in Riau on Tuesday morning, one each in Indragiri Hulu, Indragiri Hilir, Kampar and Pekanbaru.

Thick haze forced two flights to hold for a while before landing at Pekanbaru Sultan Syarif Kasim II International airport. The airplanes were forced to wait in order for visibility to improve.

“Both the planes could finally land safely as the visibility increased to 1,000 meters,” the airport’s officer in charge Hasnan Siregar said, adding that the haze so far had not disturbed departure schedules.

Meanwhile in Jambi, haze forced the authorities in East and West Tanjungjabung regencies to send students home from Monday for an indeterminable time.

“The haze endangers the students’ health, and that is why we sent them home,” West Tanjungjabung Regent Usman Ermulan said on Tuesday, adding that the policy applied only up to junior high school students.

He said his administration also distributed free masks to people to help lessen the negative health effects of the haze.

“We will also ask the health agency a check on the haze content in the air to make sure of its security level,” he said.

Haze due to land fires also still covered the Mendahara Ulu district and East Tanjungjabung regency. Firefighters were still trying to extinguish the fire as of today.

“We decided to temporarily send students in the region home because we consider the haze dangerous,” head of East Tanjungjabung Education Agency’s elementary education division, P. Sidabutar, said.

He said the policy, which was applied only to pre-schools pupils and first and second graders, was made in anticipation of new problems that might emerge because of the thickening haze in Mendahara Ulu.

He said he could not yet determine when learning activities would return to normal.

He even said that if the haze worsened, there was a possibility that all the schools in the region would be temporarily shut down.Na­­tural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar will be meeting his Indonesian counterpart to tackle the issue of transboundary haze.

 

Parts of Malaysia, especially in Sarawak, have been affected by pollution from open burning in Indonesia.

He said there had been an increasing number of hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which led to recurring haze in Sarawak.

In a statement, Dr Wan Junaidi said the meeting would include negotiations to accelerate a memorandum of understanding on a bilateral prevention programme on transboundary haze pollution.

The Department of Environment’s (DOE) director-general on Monday had also written to his counterpart in the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry to express Malaysia’s concerns.

Malaysia has urged Indonesia to do more to tackle these fires.

Air quality in Malaysia improved yesterday. The Air Pollutant Index (API), as of noon, recorded good and moderate air quality in all areas, including three divisions in Sarawak, which recorded unhealthy readings the previous day.

However, Dr Wan Junaidi said there was still transboundary haze from West Kalimantan.

Satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admini­stration detected 192 hotspots in Indonesia, including 22 in Kalimantan.

A single hotspot was detected in Johor and the DOE is investigating the cause.

Dr Wan Junaidi urged the public to co-operate with the authorities and to report incidences of open burning to the Fire and Rescue Department by calling 999 and the DOE at 1-800-88-2727 (toll free).

Meanwhile, the air quality has improved in Sarawak following two afternoons of downpour.

However, satellite imagery at 10am yesterday showed the large number of hotspots were in West, Central and East Kalimantan provinces. Data from the ASEAN Specialist Meteorological Centre showed visible smoke plumes emanating from the hotspots.

The API fell from unhealthy to moderate levels between Monday and Tuesday in the northern area. As at 3pm yesterday, the API in Kuching was 89, with visibility hovering around 2km.

API readings of between 0 and 50 indicate good air quality; 51 and 100 (moderate), 101 and 200 (unhealthy), 201 and 300 (very unhealthy) and over 301 (hazardous).

The state Natural Resources and Environment Board has banned all open burning activities until a re-evaluation is carried out pending applications for open burning.

Board controller Peter Sawal said there had been “an alarmingly large number of hotspots detected” across the border over the past few days, which caused haze to border towns like Sri Aman, Serian, Bau, as well as Kuching and Samarahan.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department is forecasting dry mornings and nights with isolated thunderstorms in the afternoons for the next week in Sarawak.

In George Town, the haze has returned, with the department’s monitoring station in Bayan Lepas showing a drop in visibility levels from 7km at 8am to 4km at 11am.

The monitoring station in Butterworth also showed a decline in horizontal visibility, from 6km (8am) to 5km (11am).

A check yesterday found that Komtar and the Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal in George Town could not be seen from the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal in Butter­worth while the view of the Penang Bridge and the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge was also poor.

– See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/malaysia/kl-discuss-haze-jakarta#sthash.BbNygcvV.dpuf


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