Forest fires in western Indonesia have intensified this month affecting the residents of Riau, West Sumatra and North Sumatra. The forest burning is also blamed for producing a thick haze to descend on neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.
Fire hotspots have increased to more than 2,000 early this month. To contain the fire, the government released six tons of salt above Riau to trigger rain in the 13,000 hectares of affected area.
Air pollution has worsened most especially in Riau, regarded as the ‘ground zero’ of the haze disaster. More than 33,300 residents of Riau have already suffered acute respiratory tract infection because of the haze. A bigger number of residents, including children, has been diagnosed with asthma and cough.
The fire is caused by the deliberate burning of forests mainly by corporate agricultural plantations. Big farmers are also accused of causing the ‘perpetual’ burning of forests because of their pollutive tilling methods.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) explained that the forest fire is both a natural and man-made disaster:
The ongoing fire disaster is also expected to affect Indonesia’s oil supply since Riau accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the national oil production.