Indonesia and Malaysia are again plagued by a traditional haze caused by forest fires in Palangkaraya (Central Kalimantan). The thick haze resulted in the cancellation of various commercial flights at the local airports in Jambi (Sumatra) and Surabaya (Java). Furthermore, it was reported that in parts of Malaysia an unhealthy air quality was recorded.
Each year forest fires damage the environment on the resource- and forest-rich islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan as farmers clear plantation and forest lands. Illegal slash and burn practice is common on these islands and form a recurring problem, particularly in the dry season. This year, the El Nino weather phenomenon could cause an extended dry season in Indonesia, implying a higher risk of forest fires in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, Head of Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said water bombing operations had to be cancelled on Monday due to limited visibility. On land, firefighting operations are being carried out in Jambi. However, the teams are having difficulty to find water sources to combat the fire, while equipment is limited as well. The Jambi Health Agency has already distributed 22,400 face masks to local residents who live nearby affected regions for health protection.
Meanwhile, at least seven areas in Peninsula Malaysia are being plagued by air pollution. The air pollutant index (API) showed that the air in these areas is currently unhealthy. These areas are Nilai, Bukit Rambai, Port Dickson, Seremban, Batu Muda, Malacca, and Banting.