The Indonesian government has ruled out evacuating residents from Sumatra despite media reports of deaths from respiratory illnesses due to crisis levels of pollution from forest fires.
Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency told Fairfax Media “the best medicine for haze is rain” and it was considering creating artificial rain to douse the fires ravaging South Sumatra.
The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), which measures air quality, soared to “dangerous” levels of 984 in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau in Sumatra, and 550 in Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra.
A PSI reading above 300 is classified as hazardous by the Singaporean government.
Greenpeace Indonesia called on the Indonesian government to evacuate residents from severely haze-affected areas, saying children had already died in Riau and Jambi in Sumatra.
“The most important thing is to try to save people,” Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Teguh Surya told Fairfax Media.
“Jokowi [the popular name for Indonesian President Joko Widodo] should make a decision to evacuate as soon as possible. The government has let people live for a month already in a poisonous area. It’s very terrible.”
But National Disaster Management Agency head Willem Rampangilei told Fairfax Media that while people often suggested evacuating residents, it was not easy and actually created more problems: “The best medicine for haze is raining. So we are thinking of making artificial rain.”
Mr Rampangilei said the meteorology agency had advised there were sufficient clouds over South Sumatra from September 13 to increase the likelihood of being able to produce artificial rain to 50 per cent.
Earlier cloud-seeding attempts in Riau province had reportedly been hampered by a lack of clouds and moisture in the air.
The drought this year has exacerbated forest fires across Indonesia, with 1409 hot spots detected in Sumatra and Kalimantan as of September 14, according to the National Disaster Management Agency.
Research by scientists at the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research found the main cause of the annual fires in Riau came from dried and deforested peatlands.
Press link for more: Jewel Topsfield | smh.com.au