A number of hot spots emerged yesterday morning across Indonesia, bringing back some of the haze to Sumatra and Kalimantan, which had been enjoying relatively clear skies since the weekend for the first time in three months.
The rainfall over the last week was not sustained enough to put out all the fires burning over forest and peatland, although it did improve conditions enough to take air quality in affected areas back to pre-haze levels in recent days.
An atmospheric monitoring station in Sumatra run by Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) at 6am detected about 200 hot spots - a sharp rise from just seven the day before, reported Tempo news. Most of the fires occurred in South Sumatra.
The hot spot numbers, however, fell to just three in Sumatra and 27 in Kalimantan, according to a map released by the BMKG showing the distribution of fires as of 4pm Western Indonesian Time.
Air pollution levels in cities across Kalimantan and Sumatra, which fell to their lowest on Monday, remained mostly in the "moderate" and "healthy" zones on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) yesterday. This, after the two regions experienced consecutive days of rain, which started last Tuesday.
Kalimantan and Sumatra were the two worst-hit regions in the haze crisis this year, which is now into its third month.
The PSI in the Central Kalimantan capital Palangkaraya was 66 at 5pm yesterday, although reports from the ground indicated that visibility dipped to about 500m earlier in the morning, from 9km on Monday when it rained.
The PSI reading for Palembang, which like Palangkaraya was also badly engulfed by the haze until recent days, was 168 at 5pm, after peaking at 263 earlier in the morning.
The Indonesian government has been ramping up cloud-seeding operations to take advantage of the increased cloud cover to create artificial rain to douse fires which are still burning.
The increase in operational tempo, however, seems to have led to a shortage of firefighting resources.
The South Sumatra Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency is said to be still waiting for more aircraft to put out forest fires in the province.
"We will carry out more cloud-seeding operations (but) we still need additional aircraft to carry out cloud-seeding and water- bombing operations," the agency's chief Yulizar Dinoto told Tempo on Monday. "Surface fires have been put out but peatlands smouldering underground can cause fires to re- emerge."
Firefighting efforts in the region are being supported by six helicopters, two air tractors, as well as two Russian-made Beriev Be-200 water-bombers chartered from Russia by Asia Pulp and Paper, which runs plantations in Sumatra.
Earlier, Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) chief Willem Rampangilei said the government plans to get five more fixed-wing aircraft for firefighting operations.
Meanwhile, official statistics showed that the haze has led to the declining tourist arrivals in several airports in Sumatra in the past two months.
But on a national level, the number of tourists who travelled to Indonesia in September alone reached 869,200, almost a 10 per cent increase year-on-year, said the country's Central Statistics Agency (BPS) yesterday. It said most of the tourists were from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, China and Japan.