Thick haze spread in Sumatra, schools shut

EoF News / 11 September 2019
haze in Pekanbaru

Thousands of schools were shut in Sumatra this week due to worsening haze from forest and land burnings as fire hotspots were detected in concession and non-concession areas, media reports said.

Following the rainfalls in end of August and beginning of this month, forest and land fires had entered their deteriorating stage as haze spread in some cities and district.

It was estimated more than 2,000 schools in Riau province were shut as mayors and district heads ordered the two-day holidays on 10 and 11 September. Riau Governor also allow schools to have holidays due to unhealthy air quality as the index reached 200-300 in recent days.

Hundreds of schools in Jambi city were reportedly shut due to haze spread following many burnings occurred in peatland and non-peat areas. Riau, Jambi, and South Sumatra are three provinces that severely hit by burnings this year in the island.

Eyes on the Forest analysed that 7205 hotspots found during 2-9 September in Sumatra island where 5405 out of them were sourced from non-concessions areas. The data are analysed from NASA FIRM VIIRS satellite by category of nominal and high confidence (see map below).

hotspots in sumatra hti palm oil 2-9 september 2019

The NASA satellite detected 1649 hotspots found in industrial timber plantation (HTI) concessions, where APRIL had 637, APP 162 and other groups/utilization 850 as area of PT. While, in palm oil plantations with HGU license it was detected 151 hotspots and the rest –outside HTI and HGU concessions—with 5405 hotspots. Majority of the area are located in peatlands.

As EoF investigative report in August 2019 revealed, some concessions that surveyed by the coalition are also detected to have hotspots again this time. They are PT Sumatera Riang Lestari block 3 (APRIL/RGE) and PT Rimba Rokan Perkasa (its license revoked by the government, formerly APP’s supplier).

In palm oil concession, PT Gandaerah Hendana in Riau and PT Agro Tumbuh Gemilang Abadi in Jambi, are two plantations that mostly detected by hotspots.

An official at Riau Health Service said at least 4,306 residents in the province suffered Upper Respiratory Tract Infection due to haze recently.  

In August, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said they had put police line in 19 companies of palm oil plantations and pulp and paper suppliers in five provinces due to their concessions raged by fires. 10 companies are situated in West Kalimantan, while in Riau there are PT RAPP (APRIL), PT AA (APP), PT SRL (APRIL), and PT GSM (palm oil company).

Johny Setiawan Mundung, a member of Riau Information Commission, said Monday that civil society organizations and the province residents would file a citizen lawsuit against the Indonesian President due to continuing wild burnings and haze in the province.

“We urge transparency by the Government on actual information currently,” Mundung said adding it related to impact of fires, budget spent to mitigation and others. “We need a right to live healthily, a right to have appropriate education service where [ the schools] not be shut due to haze,” he said as quoted by Riau Pos as saying.