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Indonesia claims it has extinguished all Riau hotspots

JAKARTA — All hotspots in the fire-prone province of Riau have been extinguished by firefighters and air quality has been restored to a “good level”, claimed Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Wednesday (Aug 31).

Indonesia claims it has extinguished all Riau hotspots

Indonesian police and military personnels extinguish fire in Kampar, Riau province on Aug 29, 2016. Photo: AFP

JAKARTA — All hotspots in the fire-prone province of Riau have been extinguished by firefighters and air quality has been restored to a “good level”, claimed Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Wednesday (Aug 31).

In a press statement, agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said satellite monitoring showed 156 hotspots are now spread across 21 provinces throughout Indonesia but none can be seen in Sumatra’s Riau province.

“Satellite observations and aerial patrols showed no burning. Thin smoke is rising from previously burned locations,” the statement said.

“Air quality measurements in Sumatra showed favourable results. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in Pekanbaru, Kampar, Pelalawan, Siak, Dumai, Rokan Hilir, Bengkalis, Riau, Palembang, Aceh and Jambi were all below a reading of 50. That is good and healthy air.”

In contrast, 14 hotspots were seen in West Java while in West Kalimantan, the hotspots increased to 48 from 43 previously, mostly because of land-clearing activities. Despite this, air quality remained in a good condition generally, Dr Nugroho said.

In the statement, Dr Nugroho said that an integrated task force has continued to tackle land and forest fires to douse the flames. The efforts by the government have yielded “encouraging results”, and the number of hotspots has “significantly reduced”.

Firefighters on the ground are said to be spraying water over burnt peatland, while patrols have been intensified in residential areas, open ground, forests and plantations. In addition to these measures, five helicopters and two planes are conducting air patrols, water bombing and cloud-seeding activities.

According to the statement, as many as 576 suspects have been arrested for using fire in land-clearing activities. “The challenge on the field is that people still burn their farms to open up the land,” Dr Nugroho said in the statement. He added that fires were located away from sources of water, which has hindered fire fighting efforts.

Mr Andersen Panjaitan, a forecaster from Indonesia’s meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency told TODAY earlier in the week that latest satellite imagery shows the situation in Sumatra has improved in recent days due to more rainfall.

Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand suffered the worst haze outbreak in years from September to November last year. The crisis affected tens of millions of people, forcing the closure of schools and causing thousands to fall sick across the region.

Singapore’s air quality hit the “unhealthy” range on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) last Friday, as smoke was blown in from central Sumatra by prevailing westerly winds.

An advisory issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Wednesday evening said that four hotspots were detected in Sumatra. Overall, the PSI for the next 24 hours is forecast to be in the moderate range, said the advisory.

“In the next few days, the prevailing winds are expected to gradually shift to blow from the southwest or west,” said the NEA.

“Slightly hazy conditions can be expected over the weekend if fires emerge in Sumatra and the situation deteriorates over the next few days,” the advisory said, adding that the NEA is monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates when necessary.

Singapore’s Parliament passed a Transboundary Haze Pollution Act in 2014, aimed at deterring and prosecuting entities that are responsible for transboundary haze pollution in the city state, whether Singaporean or foreign.

Earlier this week, Indonesia’s police chief General Tito Karnavian described a Singapore law passed to address the burning of peatlands and forests that could potentially prosecute Indonesian citizens as a “serious problem for the people of Riau and also the reputation of the Indonesians”. The general however, did not specify what law he was referring to. AGENCIES

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