Haze from Indonesia Fires Impacts Neighbors


Haze from agricultural fires on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan is causing havoc and a public health menace in Indonesia and nearby nations in Southeast Asia.

Three provinces in Sumatra and three in Kalimantan are on high alert, with 80 percent of Kalimantan blanketed by the haze.

On Sept. 15, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered that an extra 1,500 military personnel be sent in to help firefighting crews control and put out the blazes, according to news reports.

The fires, which broke out on palm oil plantations and other farms on the islands in recent weeks, have created a hazardous smoke. It has covered areas such as Riau province, on Sumatra, and haze from it has drifted across the sea to neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

The haze has disrupted commercial flights in the region and led to the closure of public schools. It has also prompted health authorities to issue air quality advisories recommending that people stay indoors.

In Singapore, contamination from the dirty air rose to “unhealthy” levels on the local Pollutant Standards Index, a gauge of air quality, according to Agence France-Presse. This came as the city-state prepared to host the Singapore Grand Prix.

The haze problem, which has been disrupting and causing respiration problems in the affected region for 18 years, is still happening because of weak law enforcement due to corruption in Indonesia, according to environmental activists.

They say the same companies have been causing the haze for years by using slash-and-burn methods to clear land for palm oil and paper plantations.

On Sept. 17, Indonesian police named seven firms and 133 people suspected of causing the fires, AFP reported.

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