JAKARTA: Haze has returned to shroud the Indonesian province of Riau in eastern Sumatra, sparked by increasing hotspots detected across the island, environmentalists said yesterday.
Data issued by Riau's environment agency on Wednesday showed satellite images of 60 hotspots, believed to be forest fires, throughout Sumatra island, the state-run Antara news agency reported.
Thirty-five hotspots – areas showing high levels of heat caused by burning – were detected in Riau province, in particular the areas bordering North Sumatra province, said Drajat Bintoro of the province's meteorology station.
Most of the hotspots are believed to be from forestry estates operated by private timber companies in the province, as well as from farmland areas, Bintoro said.
However, despite the reappearance of haze, Bintoro described the visibility in the province as still fair and that there was no need for concern.
Achmad Sahropi, an environmentalist at the provincial capital of Pekanbaru, 945km north-west of this capital, said flights from and into the province were still not affected by the haze.
“The haze hasn't disrupted air and sea transportation yet. Flights from and into the province are still normal,” Sahropi said, adding that the haze has also not affected the activities of residents so far.
While the haze problem is considered still under control, local environmentalists have warned the public to take precautions and refrain from carrying out any open burnings which would worsen the situation.
Hazy skies, a yearly problem facing parts of South-East Asia, follow the end of the rainy season and an increase in fires in the Indonesian regions of Kalimantan and Sumatra, which are attributed to both deliberate land clearance and accidental outbreaks.
In 1997 and 1998, choking haze from forest and bushland fires in Indonesia enveloped the region for weeks, causing serious health and traffic hazards and disrupting airline schedules. – dpa
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