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    Jul 01, 2015

    PSI rises here as haze shrouds parts of Riau


    A NUMBER of regions in Riau, Indonesia, have been covered in haze over the past few days as hot spots - which can trigger forest and land fires - continued to affect the province as a result of the prolonged dry season.

    In Dumai municipality, haze started to emerge on Sunday evening and had grown thicker by Monday morning. This led to a visibility of only 2km in the city, The Jakarta Post reported.

    The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index in Singapore was 65 as of 9pm yesterday, a slight drop from 71 at 7pm. It had risen from 45 at 7am. A reading from 51 to 100 is in the "moderate" range, while a reading of 101 to 200 is considered "unhealthy".

    According to satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were seven hot spots in Sumatra as of yesterday evening, reported The Straits Times.

    Erik Velasco, a research scientist at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology's Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modeling, said the low numbers mean that the risk of transboundary haze here is low.

    "While there was haze in Riau, the wind did not bring it here," said Dr Velasco.

    A spokesman for the Dumai Disaster Mitigation Agency's prevention and control section said the haze was coming from both local forest and land fires, as well as those in neighbouring regions.

    "A joint team has been working to extinguish the fires while coordinating with the provincial administration to anticipate the emergence of new fire locations," the spokesman said on Monday.

    Thin but acrid-smelling haze has also covered a number of regions in Pelalawan regency for the past two days, due to land fires. Data at the Pelalawan Firefighter and Disaster Mitigation Agency showed that serious land fires were visible in Kemang sub-district, Pangkalan Kuras district, burning some 30ha of farmland and bush.

    Responding to the situation, Rokan Hilir Regent Suyatno expressed his concern and called on the provincial administration and central government to focus on extinguishing the fires.

    He did not dismiss the possibility that traditional land clearing through burning could have caused the fires.

    "After conducting air monitoring, I promptly coordinated with Rokan Hilir police chief for law-enforcement support," he said.

    Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency head Edwar Sanger said that, starting on Monday, the agency's water-bombing operation moved from Rokan Hilir to Pelalawan to prevent the haze from covering the provincial capital of Pekanbaru.

    Mr Edwar admitted that the weather modification technology to create artificial rain had not yet provided satisfying results, due to strong winds and lack of clouds.

    "We've seeded 12 tonnes of salt over Riau, but only rain of light intensity has fallen in a number of areas, including Koto Kampar and Meranti Islands," he said.

    In May, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency warned that the dry season this year could last longer than that of previous years due to the weather phenomenon known as El Nino.