Indonesia agency says regional haze crisis may reoccur if strong action is not taken; number of hot spots rises

 A view of a fire burning in Musi Banyuasin Regency, South Sumatra, Indonesia on  August 8.
A view of a fire burning in Musi Banyuasin Regency, South Sumatra, Indonesia on August 8. PHOTO: REUTERS

PEKANBARU (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Indonesia's town of Pekanbaru, in Riau, has said all related stakeholders must implement tougher measures to immediately extinguish land fires affecting several areas across the province. If not, he warned, haze problems similar to those of previous years might affect Indonesia's neighbours.

"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," BMKG Pekanbaru head Sugarin said on Monday (Aug 15).

Based on data released by the agency, Terra and Aqua satellites detected 54 hotspots in Rokan Hilir on Monday morning, making it the area with the highest number of hotspots in Riau. Meanwhile, Dumai detected 15 hotspots, followed by Bengkalis (eight), Rokan Hulu (five), and the Meranti Islands, Indragiri Hulu and Siak, which recorded three hotspots each. Kampar reported only one hotspot.

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

"The number of hotspots in the province has increased significantly, as only 66 hotspots were detected on Sunday. This is because of the dry weather, which makes the land a lot more flammable."

Residents in Duri, Mandau district, Bengkalis regency, claimed they could smell smoke since early Monday.

Several areas in Tanah Putih district, Rokan Hilir regency, have been blanketed with thick smoke since Monday morning. The smoke came from land fires in Putat village in Tanah Putih district and Siarang Arang village in Pujud district.