The annual haze that blankets parts of Kalimantan and Sumatra worsened over Pontianak on Monday, decreasing visibility for motorists and affecting the health of local residents.
Raihan, head of the city’s environment office, called on residents to stay alert while driving or walking. “People should always be careful in times like this,” he said.
Pontianak’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has so far recorded 45 hot spots spread over nine districts in West Kalimantan. In Sumatra, a total of 163 hot spots were detected on Sunday.
“The haze has not disrupted flights to and from the city yet because it doesn’t blanket the whole sky above the airport,” said Sutikno, a BMKG official at Pontianak’s Supadio International Airport.
Raihan said his office had yet to determine the source of the haze, adding that several teams have been deployed to various locations to investigate.
“We want to find out whether the haze is due to peat or forest burning by companies or residents as it is almost planting season. The hot spots can also come from fires set off by the long dry season,” he said.
Rain has not fallen in the province for several weeks now, causing fire to easily ignite, he added.
“However, we have called on residents and companies not to burn forests and advised people to use masks when they conduct outdoor activities,” Raihan said.
Eko, a 30-year-old Pontianak resident, said visibility in the city was only about 200 meters in the morning, and worsened toward the evening as the haze grew thicker.
With the haze becoming thicker over the past few weeks, he said, more and more residents have begun to suffer from upper respiratory tract infections.
“We’ve been dealing with this situation for two weeks now, and it’s getting worse every day with the lack of rain. Most of us now use masks whenever we’re outdoors,” Eko said.
Haze is an annual problem during the monsoon season from May to September in Kalimantan and Sumatra. Neighboring Singapore and Malaysia also suffer when winds blow the fumes over the Malacca Strait.
The Air Pollutant Index reached the unhealthy level of 127 in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday and visibility was described as poor by the Meteorological Department, Agence France-Presse reported.
With dry weather forecast for the next week, air quality is expected to deteriorate further.