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 Haze plagues Sumatra, fires destroy forests in Central Java

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BerichtOnderwerp: Haze plagues Sumatra, fires destroy forests in Central Java   za 29 aug 2015 - 5:18

The Jakarta Post, Sat, August 29 2015,

Haze that has been covering most parts of West Sumatra and Jambi is worsening, while fires are continuing to burn forested areas in the mountains of Central Java.

In Padang, West Sumatra, haze has reduced visibility at Minangkabau International Airport to between 2,000 and 3,000 meters.

“Previously, the lowest visibility caused by haze was 5000 meters,” the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Padang office spokesman, Budi Samiaji, said on Friday, adding that the haze was now the worst it had been in weeks.

The haze, Budi said, was almost certainly a result of forest and land fires in southern Sumatra, where many hot spots have been found.

In Jambi, fires have burned 9,149 hectares of peat land in East Tanjungjabung and Muarojambi regencies so far this year, causing losses of Rp 716 billion (US$51 million), according to the Indonesian Conservation Community (KKI) Warsi.

The community’s manager, Rudi Syaf, expressed regret that no solution had been found to the annual fires and resultant haze.

In Riau, the provincial disaster mitigation agency (BPBD) has urged the provincial administrations of Jambi and South Sumatra to be proactive in dealing with forest and land fires in their respective regions.

“Although the fires occur in those two provinces, the impacts are also felt in neighboring provinces, including Riau,” Riau BPBD head Edwar Sanger said on Friday.

Haze has been blamed for deteriorating air quality in Riau, with local authorities in Siak and Pelalawan regencies forced to send students home over health concerns.

Edwar suggested that both provincial administrations declare an emergency status for forest and land fires to encourage the central government to assist in solving the problem.

Acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman has decided to extend the emergency status for haze and fires in the province beyond the original Aug. 31 cut-off point, citing forecasts that the El Nino weather phenomenon will last until October.

“Based on the results of the evaluation meeting, the emergency status will be extended from Sept. 1 to Sept. 31, 2015,” the governor said.

In Karanganyar, Central Java, a fire in Mt. Lawu forest had yet to be fully extinguished as of Friday, with efforts hampered by tricky access to the location.

“The field is indeed difficult. Volunteers have to walk for three to four hours from Cetho Temple to reach the location,” said district military command (Kodim) commander 0727/Karanganyar Lt. Col. Inf. Mathen Pasunda.

Separately, the head of the Karanganyar BPBD, Nugroho, said that ditches would be dug to contain the fire, explaining that the ditches would be filled with water from pipelines normally used to channel clean water to houses.

Volunteers calling themselves the Children of Mount Lawu (AGL) and local police and military personnel have meanwhile established joint posts to help douse the fires.

The main post was erected near Cetho Temple in Jenawi district, while three supporting posts were established around the climbing posts in Cemara Kandang and Cetho Temple.

Besides Mt. Lawu, forested areas on the slopes of Mt. Sindoro in Wonosobo regency, also in Central Java, were similarly ravaged by fire on Friday.

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