- Jokowi arrived in South Sumatra on Thursday to monitor the humanitarian and firefighting operation.
- Environment ministers from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping met in Vietnam on Thursday.
- In the U.S. a petition has been created calling on the Obama administration to send additional firefighting assets and relief workers.
Air quality in Indonesia was slightly improved in most areas on Thursday following rain on Tuesday night as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo landed in South Sumatra to monitor the archipelago’s firefighting and humanitarian response.
But in East Kalimantan, fires continue to threaten the Sungai Wain Protected Forest, a 9,852-hectare expanse of ancient virgin forest near the provincial capital, Balikpapan.
“We don’t know how the fires started or the extent of the forest that has been burned,” Nunuk Kasiyanto, who is coordianting volunteers in an effort to stave off the flames, told Indonesia’s state-owned Antara news agency.
In 1997, Sungai Wain forest was saved from destruction after a massive fire fight. It burns again. Please help. https://t.co/DzAEMchbW4
— Erik Meijaard (@emeijaard) October 26, 2015
Sungai Wain is home to several protected species, including the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) and Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). It serves as an important water catchment area for Balikpapan residents. It also supplies the city’s oil industry.
“This water is used for power generation, pumping of oil, cooling of the refineries and for drinking water,” according to the Pro Natura Foundation, which is raising money to aid the firefighting.
In the wake of Tuesday’s rain, only Siak, a regency in Riau province, registered “dangerous” air quality at 5 a.m. on Thursday, with a pollutant index of 336. Air in Pekanbaru, home earlier this month to a small-scale anti-haze protest group dubbed Blue Sky Revolution, was in the normal level on Thursday morning.
Jokowi arrived in Palambang, the capital of South Sumatra, on Thursday to monitor the humanitarian and firefighting operation. The president will work from the local government offices in Ogan Komering Ilir regency, which was until recently the focus of the international firefighting effort because of the high number of hotspots.
The office of the cabinet secretary said the president would then fly to Palangkaraya to monitor the operation from Kalimantan. Air in the Central Kalimantan capital was unhealthy on Thursday afternoon, according to Indonesia’s meteorology agency.
Jokowi’s defeated rival in last year’s Indonesian presidential election again said the government should declare the situation a national disaster, which it has so far refrained from doing.
“For a long time I have been saying … the status should be national disaster,” Prabowo Subianto said.
Environment ministers from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Vietnam on Thursday and raised concerns about the “unprecedented severity and geographical spread” of the haze.
In the U.S. a petition has been created calling on the Obama administration to send additional firefighting assets and relief workers to Indonesia. The U.S. recently announced it was donating $2.75 million to the Indonesian firefighting effort, but petitioners hope Obama will send far more.