Haze Worsens as Smog Covers Singapore, Parts of Indonesia

  • Palangkaraya and Pontianak air quality at hazardous levels
  • Indonesia set 15 to 30-day deadlines to fight forest fires

The haze from Indonesian forest fires intensified Tuesday afternoon, driving the pollution gauge in parts of the country to hazardous levels and blanketing downtown Singapore with a layer of smog.

The pollution index at Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan province reached a day’s high of 1,986.73, more than five times above the ”hazardous” air quality base level of 350.1, according to data from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics. In the West Kalimantan city of Pontianak, the gauge peaked at 706.45. In Singapore, the three-hour index rose to 143 as of 4 p.m., entering the "unhealthy" level as of 1 p.m.

Indonesia said Tuesday it had revoked the permit of a forestry concession company and suspended permits for three palm-oil companies as there were fires on land they controlled.

Indonesia’s enforcement of its laws against plantation owners is key to resolving the haze that covered parts of Southeast Asia in the past few weeks, Singapore’s Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Friday. The smog led the city-state to cancel outdoor events and flights were diverted across the region.

Seven flights at the Kuching International Airport in the east Malaysian state of Sarawak were also affected due to low visibility because of the haze, state news agency Bernama reported.

Indonesia last week set a 14-day deadline starting to extinguish fires in Riau, and a 30-day target for South Sumatra and Jambi. The government has detained suspects in companies in various parts of the country.

Indonesia will take firm action on concession holders and blacklist directors, commissioners and owners involved in forest fires, Luhut Panjaitan, coordinating minister for politics, law and security affairs, said on Wednesday in Jakarta, adding he was betting his reputation on the matter.

The haze led organizers of the Formula One race in Singapore over the weekend to add contingency plans such as selling N95 masks at cost and having medical personnel on standby for haze-related conditions.

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