Thickhaze causes health hazards, disrupts land transport in Indonesia
03 July 2002
Jakarta,3 July 2002 – Thick smoke from cropland clearing on Indonesia’s Sumatra islandand parts of Kalimantan have caused health problems and disrupted landtransportation, it was reported Wednesday.
Rukasi,an official at West Kalimantan’s environmental office, said thick smoke fromland clearing activity had enshrouded the provincial capital Pontianak, declared”dangerous” for health in the past few days, especially at night. “Wehave issued a warning that residents should not leave their homes at night forunnecessary reasons, or if they do they should wear masks,” Rukasi toldDeutsche Presse Agentur dpa by telephone. Hesaid that since the end of rainy season several weeks ago, local farmers havestarted clearing fields with slash and burn methods to prepare fornext planting season.
Thetraditional land clearing practice goes on despite warnings issued by PontianakMayor Buchary Abdurrahman, urging people to stop slash-and-burn activities toprevent the air pollution from worsening. Anotherenvironmentalist, Idrin M. Suud said that cases have been reported of childrensuffering from eye irritation caused by the smoke in Pontianak, 700 kilometresnorth of Jakarta.
Meanwhile,cropland burning was also causing problems in South Sumatra province, creating athick haze that disrupted land transportation. Jakarta’sleading Kompas daily reported Wednesday the haze from cropland burning hadlowered the visibility between the provincial capital of Palembang and Indralayadistrict, forcing drivers to slow down to a crawl due to fog-likeconditions. Hazefrom plantation clearing, cropland burning and forest fires blanketed parts ofIndonesia for several weeks in 1999, forcing hundreds of people to behospitalized with respiratory ailments.
In1997, the dense haze from forest fires and slash-and-burn land clearing inSumatra and Kalimantan hung over a wide span of Southeast Asia for months,disrupting air and sea transport and causing health problems for millions ofpeople.
Indonesia’spersistent man-made problems with haze, which has had an adverse affect ontourism and transport in neighbouring countries Malaysia and Singapore, hasturned the annual health hazard to a regional issue, periodically discussed atforums of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Lastmonth, ASEAN members signed an agreement to jointly combat the haze threat, andto issue advance warnings to one another of forest fires and otherhaze-causing phenomena.
Source:(published by the German Press Agency dpa, 3 July 2002)