Jon Afrizal, Jambi – Haze from ongoing forest and land fires continued to plague Jambi on Wednesday, despite the government's attempts to create artificial rain since Friday.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the Indonesian Military (TNI) have already spread around 100 tons of quicklime in the provinces of Jambi, Riau and South Sumatra over the past few days, but no rain has been forthcoming, even as the fires continue to burn.
"The last time we felt rain was in the last week of September," Wahidi, a resident of Sungai Bahar district, Muarojambi regency, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. "After that, nothing."
The United States Air Quality Index (AQI) showed a reading of 576 – categorized as "dangerous" – in nearby Palembang, South Sumatra, and a reading of 282 – categorized as "very unhealthy" – in Jambi itself.
The National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) detected 531 hot spots in South Sumatra and 282 hot spots in Jambi on Wednesday.
Eva Susanti, head of the Disease Prevention and Control division of the Jambi Health Agency said haze and smog had resulted in an increase in acute respiratory infection (ISPA) cases.
According to Jambi Health Agency data, the number of ISPA sufferers in the province increased to 42,962 in August from 29,415 in July.
"We have prepared health posts in 206 Puskesmas [community health centers] spread out in 11 regencies and municipalities for residents who suffer from ISPA due to the fire," Eva said.
She added that the agency had also distributed 500,000 face masks as a short-term measure to combat ISPA. "The long-term measure is to put out the fires that cause the haze," she said.
Residents expressed their skepticism that the fires could be prevented in the future. "Haze [from forest fires] has happened every year since 1990," Jambi resident Arman said. (kmt)