Jambi. Haze from ground brush and forest fires resumed blanketing parts of central Sumatra on Monday after cloud-seeding efforts failed to induce any rain for three straight days, officials and residents said.
Visibility early in the morning at Jambi’s Sultan Thaha Airport was just 500 meters, preventing planes from landing until the smog cleared up a bit by 8:30 a.m.
Zubaidi, head of the provincial disaster mitigation office, blamed the problem on the failure to produce any rain through cloud-seeding efforts over the past three days, after earlier efforts had proved successful.
“We haven’t had any rain even though we seeded the clouds above Jambi. The problem is that the clouds are much too thin,” he said.
He added the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) would continue seeding the clouds.
“Most likely we’ll be able to induce some rainfall over Jambi again on Monday evening,” he said.
“We’ll continue making artificial rain until the normal rains set in.”
Zubaidi also denied that most of the haze in Jambi and the neighboring provinces of West Sumatra and Bengkulu came from fires within Jambi, pointing out that only one hot spot was detected in the province as of Sunday.
“There was only one hot spot, in West Tanjung Jabung district. We believe the smoke blanketing the city of Jambi comes from South Sumatra,” he said.
Officials in Bengkulu and West Sumatra have confirmed an increased level of haze there, but say it has not yet reached dangerous levels.
In Bengkulu, the haze is reportedly thicker in the early mornings and evenings, while during the daytime winds keep the skies clear.
There have been no reports of limited visibility or respiratory complaints out of Bengkulu as a result of the haze.
Officials there insist that the haze is wafting in from Jambi and South Sumatra, given that there have been no reports of ground brush or forest fires in Bengkulu.
Risman Sipayung, the head of the Bengkulu Forestry Office, said forest rangers had been deployed to prevent fires from being lit, especially for land clearing.
“We have called on the people, through the district and Bengkulu city authorities, against conducting land clearing using fire during this dry season, because besides causing forest fires it also creates haze,” he said.
In Padang, West Sumatra, a thin veil of haze limited visibility to less than 10 kilometers, with officials there also blaming the conditions on forest fires in Jambi and South Sumatra.
Neli Elfira, from the local office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), said the latest satellite imagery of the region showed 75 hot spots, areas of high temperature indicating forest or ground brush fires, in South Sumatra.
She said the haze in Padang was not yet at dangerous levels and that aviation safety was still unaffected because visibility was well above the minimum level required.
She added that the higher people went, the denser the haze would be, and cautioned motorists going through mountainous areas to drive cautiously.