Haze envelopes parts of Riau province in Indonesia

A motorcyclist and his rider braving the haze in Dumai in Indonesia’s Riau province.
A motorcyclist and his rider braving the haze in Dumai in Indonesia’s Riau province.ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

PEKANBARU (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A number of regions in Riau have been covered in haze over the past few days as hotspots - which can trigger forest and land fires - continued to surround the province as a result of the prolonged dry season.

In Dumai municipality, haze started to emerge on Sunday evening and had grown thicker by Monday morning, leading to poor visibility in the city, which was recorded at only 2km.

Head of Dumai Disaster Mitigation Agency's (BPBD) prevention and control section, Tengku Ismed, said the thick haze was coming from both local forest and land fires as well as those in neighbouring regions.

"A joint team has been working to extinguish the fires while at the same time coordinating with the provincial administration to anticipate the emergence of new fire locations," Ismed said on Monday.

Thin but acrid smelling haze also covered a number of regions in Pelalawan regency for the last two days due to land fires. Data at the Pelawan Firefighter and Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBPKD) showed that serious land fires were visible in Kemang subdistrict, Pangkalan Kuras district, burning some 30ha of farmland and bush.

Based on the data collected by the Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency's (BMKG) Pekanbaru station, from the Terra and Aqua satellites, 59 hotspots were detected on Monday in 10 regions across Riau.

Responding to the situation, Rokan Hilir Regent Suyatno expressed his concern and called on the provincial administration and the central government to focus on extinguishing the fires.

He did not dismiss the possibility that traditional land clearing measure through burning could have caused the fires.

"After conducting air monitoring, I promptly coordinated with Rokan Hilir police chief for law enforcement support," he said.

Separately, Riau BPBD head Edwar Sanger said that starting on Monday, the agency's water bombing operation moved from Rokan Hilir to Pelalawan to prevent the haze from covering the provincial capital of Pekanbaru.

Edwar also admitted that the weather modification technology (TMC) to create artificial rains had not yet provided satisfying results due to strong winds and lack of clouds. "We've seeded 12 tons of salt over Riau but only rain of light intensity has fallen in a number of areas including in Koto Kampar and Meranti Islands," he said.

Last month, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) warned that the dry season this year could last longer than that of previous years due to the weather phenomenon known as El Nino.