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Smoke haze creeps back over parts of Southeast Asia JAKARTA - The thick haze which blanketed parts of Indonesia and its neighbors for months three years ago is beginning to choke regional skies again, officials said on Monday. The haze has been returning to parts of Kalimantan and Sumatra as well as southern Thailand.
Thick haze has returned over Pontianak but only during the night, while during daytime, visibility returns to normal," said the head of the West Kalimantan province's environmental impact management office, Idrin, as quoted by AFP from theprovincial capital of Pontianak.
"The dangerous level, with presence of highly toxicparticles, is now between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. but by around 7 a.m., the haze usually has thinned again," Idrin said. "The haze appears to have been carried by winds from the south-southeast."
Muhammad Khaeron of the meteorology office in Pontianak said low visibility from the haze had already delayed the landing of one commercial flight from Jakarta by about 45 minutes early on Monday.Khaeron said the haze in Pontianak, which had thickened in the past 10 days, was worse at night because of the presence of mist.
Haze has also returned to Riau, one of the Indonesian provinces on Sumatra island, worst hit by forest and ground fires in 1997 and 1998. "It is definitely back," said a staff member at themeteorology office in the Riau provincial capital of Pekanbaru.
"We have been seeing the haze here again, especially in the early morning, for the past four days," said the employee, who only identified himself as Sarman. He said the haze had so far not hampered flights to and from Pekanbaru despite limiting visibility to under 500 meters early in the morning, before the haze lifted around 9 a.m.
The environmental official in Pontianak said preliminary investigations showed the haze had resulted from land clearances in the late afternoon by farmers using fire. "This is almost planting season again, and the farmers are clearing their land for the new crop," Idrin said, adding that the fires were sporadic and not concentrated in any single area.
"What the governor and his underlings have been actively doing in the past days is to tell the farmers that if they want to use fire to clear their land, they should at least wait until the grass is really dry before they burn it, so that there is less smoke," he said. The government has banned land clearing using fire for plantations and other large companies, but it has been helpless in enforcing the ban on small farmers across the country.
The forestry ministry's director for forest fire control, Joko Setiono, told the Suara Pembaruan afternoon daily that the government had earmarked Rp 140 billion (US$12.4 million) to tackle the problem this year. The news agency also said that there were weekend reports of smoke haze floating across southern Thailand.
A thick choking haze covered Thailand's southern province of Satun bordering Malaysia, with visibility at sea of less than one kilometer, has forced many fishermen to stay in port. The Bangkok Post said the smog had drifted from Indonesia but also said that a blaze in nearby Narathiwat had contributed to the haze.
West Kalimantan and Riau were among several Indonesian regions affected by thick smog in 1997 and 1998 which also spilled over to several neighboring countries, causing extensive health and traffic dangers. The choking haze caused an estimated $9.3 billion in economic losses.



Posted in Forest fires @ 01 July 2001 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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