Indonesia: Air quality improves as all hotspots in Riau province ‘extinguished’
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Indonesia: Air quality improves as all hotspots in Riau province ‘extinguished’

INDONESIA’S National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Wednesday said firefighters have doused all hotspots in the fire-prone province of Riau, raising the air quality to a “good level”, local media reported.

According to Today Online, the agency’s spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the hotspots in the Riau province were no longer visible on satellite images. He reportedly said in a statement that there were 156 hotspots scattered across 21 provinces in Indonesia but none in Riau.

“Satellite observations and aerial patrols showed no burning. Thin smoke is rising from previously burned locations,” Nugroho was quoted saying.

“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.”

Indonesian authorities are said to have intensified efforts to put out peatland, forest and open ground fires, deploying five helicopters and two planes to conduct air patrols, water bombing and cloud-seeding activities.

SEE ALSO: Indonesian firm found guilty of 2014 fires, ordered to pay US$5.9m

Nugroho said that 14 hotspots have been detected in West Java, while West Kalimantan saw an increase from 43 to 48 due to land-clearing activities.

However, he said the air quality remained good.

He said many as 576 suspects have been nabbed conducting land-clearing activities with fires.

“The challenge on the field is that people still burn their farms to open up the land,” Nugroho was quoted as saying, adding the fires were distant from water sources, posing a challenge to firefighting efforts.

Earlier this week, the Indonesian government urged its neighbors to cease complaining about the annual haze problem, pointing out that it is doing what it can to douse forest fires caused every year by farmers clearing land for agriculture.

According to UPI, Indonesia instead called on its neighbors to be more sympathetic, although it said it “respects” the complaints over the haze caused by the fires.

Smoke from fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan returned in the past few weeks, prompting fears from affected nations like Malaysia and Singapore that last year’s haze crisis – which saw air quality deterioration hit record levels – would repeat.