Haze emergency declared in Riau

The Star, 14 Sep 2015

JAKARTA: Indonesia on Monday declared a state of emergency in a province choked with thick haze from forest fires, as fears mounted that worsening air quality could affect the upcoming Grand Prix in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.

The emergency announcement in Riau province on Sumatra island came as aircraft were deployed to water-bomb the raging blazes and conduct “cloud-seeding”, which involves chemically inducing rain.

Smog-belching fires are an annual problem during the dry season in Indonesia. Vast tracts of land are cleared on Sumatra and the Indonesian part of Borneo island, using illegal slash-and-burn methods to make way for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations.

The blazes intensified in the past fortnight, sending smog over Sumatra and Borneo that has left tens of thousands ill, forced people to wear face masks and prompted the cancellation of flights and school closures.

Although there were more fires in other provinces, Riau has been one of the worst-hit as smog blows in from the surrounding areas.

Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar announced the state of emergency and said that more heath posts would be set up in Riau.

Arsyad Juliandi Rachman, Riau acting governor, said assistance would now be requested from the central government, state-run news agency Antara reported.

Air quality has also been worsening in Singapore just east of Sumatra and Malaysia. Authorities in Singapore said it was in the upper end of the ““unhealthy” range late Monday, with smog shrouding the city-state and a smell of burning wood.

There were concerns about the potential impact on next weekend’s Formula One, with organisers saying they were monitoring the haze.

“In the event that the haze caused visibility, public health or operational issues, Singapore GP would work closely with the relevant agencies before making any collective decisions regarding the event,” a Singapore GP spokesman said in a statement. – AFP

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Pollution emergency declared in Riau

The Star, 15 Sep 2015

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government today declared a pollution emergency in Riau after the haze situation in the region hit dangerous levels.

Riau local daily, Tribun Pekanbaru, quoted Acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman as saying that the capital of Riau, Pekanbaru, is in a very unhealthy situation.

He said the air quality had reached a dangerous level with API reading exceeding 1000.

Meanwhile, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar was quoted as saying that local authorities in Riau had been instructed to open health posts.

She said the authorities were also monitoring operations to douse forest flames and fires in plantations in Jambi and South Sumatra.

Thick smoke due to forest fires in both the areas has caused serious haze in Malaysia and Singapore.

Siti Nurbaya said efforts douse the forest flames were being intensified using aircraft to water-bomb the raging blazes and conduct cloud seeding.

“As of now, 18 million litres of water have been poured in Riau and 12 million litres in South Sumatera for water bombing, and for cloud seeding, 120 tonnes of salt have been used in Riau and another 56 tonnes in South Sumatra and Jambi,” she said.

President Joko Widodo, who is now visiting the Middle-East, is reported to have directed authorities to take action against those responsible for the fires. – Bernama

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