Indonesia’s third-largest province has declared a state of emergency from 1 July 2020 after the country reported an alarmingly high number of over 700 fire hotspots. That means that neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia among other countries could experience transboundary haze.
Peak Season Likely to be in August
Haze may hit Singapore soon, with the annual recurring problem of forest fires. | Photo: Pinterest
According to an official from the environment and forestry ministry, Radian Bagiyono, the peak season is likely to be in August.
Siak in Riau and East Kotawaringin in the Central Kalimantan province are “now bracing for the second phase” that is said to last between July and October, said Bagiyono to news site kompas.com.
According to him in Phase 1, Kalimantan is part of the fire-prone regions that have passed the wildfire crisis from February to April.
Currently, the level of emergency is at the first “alert” stage whereby the country will focus on efforts to increase patrols and extinguish fires as early as possible.
The operations are said to run from 1 July to 28 September 2020, when the dry season ends.
Plans for fire-prone areas have begun, including cloud seeding activities to help artificially tweak rain in these areas.
Budget Cut to Protect Forests Due to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has a part to play in Indonesia calling for the state of emergency.
According to Bagiyono, the budget to help protect the forests has been halved due to the economic impact of the coronavirus.
With cut budgets, there would be lesser protection by the environment ministry who are working to contain the forest fires.
“And the haze could be potentially thicker or similar to last year,” according to Kiki Taufik, head of the Greenpeace forests campaign in Indonesia to Reuters.
This could intensify the current problems that Indonesia has been facing, and expose the local community to “more dangerous fires”.
They might even have to fend for themselves.
“Fire hot spots could potentially be bigger and spread to remote peatland areas, especially in the burned areas from 2019 that are not yet restored,” said Taufik.
Fires An Annual Problem
The forest fires in Indonesia are an annual problem that has affected many neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines among others.
These fires usually occur due to farmers’ need to clear agricultural land for palm oil cultivation. The slash-and-burn techniques are used.
According to reports, the fires from last year “were particularly damaging”. A total of 1.6 million ha of forest and peatland were burned.
However, it is not certain if Singapore will experience a thick haze as of yet as the National Environment Agency (NEA) has not released any official statement.
Still, it is encouraged for Singaporeans to stay vigilant during this trying time and keep masks on, especially with the occurrence of COVID-19.
Safety Tips During Haze
It is advised to stay indoors as much as possible during the period of haze, which typically occurs between the months of May to October.
Tiny particles if accumulated in the body can harm the body. It increases the risk of developing viral and bacterial infections, in addition to heart and lung diseases, cancer and stroke.
Especially for those with existing health conditions such as chronic heart or lung conditions such as asthma, young children to elderly and even pregnant women should avoid heading outdoors if possible. Those with eye conditions should also limit heading outdoors as haze particles could be a source of irritation to the eyes.
A guide to PSI reading levels:
0 – 50 (Good)
51 – 100 (Moderate)
101 – 200 (Unhealthy)
201 – 300 (Very unhealthy)
Above 300 (Hazardous)
Here are some tips you can follow to protect your family from the haze:
Minimise or avoid outdoor activities when PSI levels are above 100
Minimise exposure outdoors for an extended period of time
Put on a mask
The N95 mask is said to be effective in filtering out the small haze particles but is not required if indoors or when leaving home briefly, according to HealthXchange.
Drink plenty of fluids to hydrate yourself. Doing so helps to flush out toxins.
Consume more immunity-boosting foods such as fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins A and C
Take medication if necessary (for issues such as eye or throat irritation). If symptoms worsen, do consult a doctor.
Utilise an air purifier
Cut down on coffee and alcohol
Practice good hygiene
You can keep a lookout on current haze levels (PSI readings) by visiting here.
Photo via Pinterest.