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Published: Wednesday June 26, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday June 26, 2013 MYT 2:52:34 PM

Not bothered with haze

PEKANBARU: Life seemed quite normal for many Indonesians on the resource-rich Riau despite the haze which started almost two weeks ago here.

While those living in Johor and Malacca were using the face masks while carrying out outdoor activities because the air quality in the southern region has gone bad, Pekanbaru residents were not really perturbed by the hazy situation.

The writer and photographer assigned to cover the haze here from Friday, June, 21, to Monday, June 23, were rather surprised to see only a handful of them have their masks on.

The first sign of bad air quality in Pekanbaru was when we stepped out from our plane from Jakarta which landed at the Sultan Syarif Kasim II airport here at about 8.40pm local time.

Our eyes were stung with that sharp burning sensation, turning them watery and red but luckily we had our masks on since leaving Johor Baru at about 11.45am Malaysian time.

It was a total contrast when we arrived at Jakarta from Singapore at 4.40pm before taking the connecting flight to Pekanbaru at 7.10pm; the skies in Jakarta were bright and clear.

Knowing that we came from Malaysia, our taxi driver Pak Baharuddin, 52, wanted to know how bad was the haze back home and surprised when told that schools in Johor were closed.

Asked why locals did not put on their masks when outdoor, he said: “Nggak perlu, belum gawat darurat” – no need as the situation was not alarming.

Arriving at the hotel located at Jalan Jenderal Sudirman after 15 minutes, we could even sense “burning smell” lingered at the lobby area.

Even in the evening, the air quality was still bad but it did not stop locals from spending their times outdoor and it could be seen from large crowds at the fountain at Jalan Jenderal Sudirman.

The next day, we went to Pasar Bawah wet market at Kampung Dalam, Jalan Kota Baru and mingled with locals asking them on the haze situation.

One housewife Mondang, 41, said she was more worried with the hike in fuel prices that took effect on Friday rather than haze. Her friend Esah, 23, nodded in agreement.

“The haze will go in a month or two, but hike in fuel prices will lead to inflation,’’ she said adding that with Ramadan and Syawal months coming, prices of basic goods were expected to increase.

Mondang said previous hike in fuel prices in Indonesia had led to increase in prices of essential goods and services and the low income earners suffered the most.

Esah interrupted saying that the impact of the fuel hike had already started as a carton of 24 eggs previously cost Rp10,000 and now at Rp30,000.

Over at the Pasar Bawah complex just a few minutes away from the wet market, fabric shop owner Yanto, 30, said he was worried with the hike in fuel prices.

Yanto from Bandung and wife Diana, 32, from Sumatra has been selling materials for baju kurung, kebaya, hijab (robes), scarves and costume jewellery at the complex for five years.

“Customers might cut their spending on non-essential goods including buying new clothes for Aidilfitri,” he said.

Tags / Keywords: Environment, Community, News, haze, pekanbaru, masks

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