‘How can we breathe if the oxygen has been taken away?’: How residents in Pekanbaru, ground zero for Indonesia’s haze, are coping

Masked motorcyclists near Agus Salim market in Pekanbaru at around 7.30am yesterday. Far left: Mr Bakri Hamid (far left) and his neighbour, Mr Jimi Azmi, 25, by the Siak river in Pekanbaru. Mr Bakri says when he wakes up, he feels like he has just sw
Masked motorcyclists near Agus Salim market in Pekanbaru at around 7.30am yesterday. ST PHOTOS: KHALID BABA
Masked motorcyclists near Agus Salim market in Pekanbaru at around 7.30am yesterday. Far left: Mr Bakri Hamid (far left) and his neighbour, Mr Jimi Azmi, 25, by the Siak river in Pekanbaru. Mr Bakri says when he wakes up, he feels like he has just sw
Mr Bakri Hamid (left) and his neighbour, Mr Jimi Azmi, 25, by the Siak river in Pekanbaru. Mr Bakri says when he wakes up, he feels like he has just swallowed a kedondong seed, which is fibrous and spiky. ST PHOTOS: KHALID BABA
Masked motorcyclists near Agus Salim market in Pekanbaru at around 7.30am yesterday. Far left: Mr Bakri Hamid (far left) and his neighbour, Mr Jimi Azmi, 25, by the Siak river in Pekanbaru. Mr Bakri says when he wakes up, he feels like he has just sw
It's business as usual near Agus Salim market amid the haze.ST PHOTOS: KHALID BABA

His house overlooks the wide and magnificent Siak river that runs from west to east of Pekanbaru and on a regular day, Mr Bakri Hamid would be on the front terrace enjoying the breeze while watching the trees sway in the wind. But it is the haze season now, and nothing is normal.

Every year between July and October, farmers slash and burn vegetation to start another growing season.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 22, 2019, with the headline ''How can we breathe if the oxygen has been taken away?''. Print Edition | Subscribe