Haze 'may hit region if Riau fires continue'

Thick smoke rises from a fire in Medang Kampai, Dumai, in Riau province last week. The Indonesian government plans to build at least 6,000 deep wells in peatland areas prone to fire by the end of this year ahead of next year's dry season.
Thick smoke rises from a fire in Medang Kampai, Dumai, in Riau province last week. The Indonesian government plans to build at least 6,000 deep wells in peatland areas prone to fire by the end of this year ahead of next year's dry season.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

JAKARTA • The regional haze crisis may return if tougher measures are not taken immediately to extinguish land fires affecting several areas in Indonesia's Riau province, the weather agency has warned.

"Currently, the wind tends to blow to the south-east. If smoke haze occurs, there is a significant chance it will be brought by the wind to our neighbouring countries," said Mr Sugarin, the head of the Pekanbaru branch of the meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency, on Monday.

According to the agency, satellites detected 54 hot spots in Rokan Hilir on Monday morning, making it the area in Riau with the highest number of such spots.

Meanwhile, 15 hot spots were detected in Dumai, eight in Bengkalis, five in Rokan Hulu and three each in the Meranti Islands, Indragiri Hulu and Siak. Kampar reported only one hot spot.

"In total, 92 hot spots were detected in Riau this morning, 84 of which were in coastal areas with a significant amount of peatland," said Mr Sugarin.

He called on all stakeholders to implement tougher measures immediately to put out the fires.

National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement yesterday that the number of hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan had increased during the past week, with the worst-hit area being West Kalimantan province.

He said satellites had detected 185 areas on fire, including 125 in West Kalimantan.

As well as those in Riau, the other hot spots were in Central Kalimantan, West Papua and North Sumatra.

There were also 297 probable hot spots as of yesterday afternoon.

The agency said it had deployed seven waterbombing helicopters, two waterbombing aircraft and two cloud-seeding aircraft.

The Indonesian government plans to build at least 6,000 deep wells in peatland areas prone to fire by the end of this year ahead of next year's dry season, which is predicted to be more intense.

In a speech in Jakarta yesterday ahead of the country's Independence Day, President Joko Widodo said the government would not tolerate the burning of forest and agriculture lands.

"The government has no tolerance for the perpetrators of forest fires, as such act is a crime against humanity," he said.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

• Additional reporting by Arlina Ashad

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2016, with the headline 'Haze 'may hit region if Riau fires continue''. Print Edition | Subscribe