- Rain fell in some haze-hit regions on Tuesday, including in Banjarmasin, Berau, Jambi, Palangkaraya, Pontianak and Samarinda.
- The navy has allocated 11 vessels, including a floating hospital, to be on standby to evacuate people from areas experiencing dangerous air quality.
- One of Indonesia’s most-prominent NGOs is advocating an expansion of the archipelago’s community-forest program as an anti-haze measure.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo cut short his official visit to the U.S. on Tuesday and returned to Indonesia to oversee government efforts to manage a humanitarian disaster caused by wildfires and peatland hotspots.
Rain fell in some haze-hit regions on Tuesday, including in Banjarmasin, Berau, Jambi, Palangkaraya, Pontianak and Samarinda, while Indonesia’s disaster management agency reported progress of sorts in preparing evacuations.
The navy has allocated 11 vessels, including a floating hospital, to be on standby to evacuate people from areas experiencing dangerous air quality.
“[Ships] KRI Banda Aceh, KRI Teluk Jakarta and Dr. Suharso are already in Banjarmasin [in South Kalimantan],” said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
Meanwhile, the minister in charge of Indonesia’s haze operation, Luhut Pandjaitan, joined health minister Nila Moelok and environment minister Siti Nurbaya on a visit to Jambi on Tuesday, a Sumatran province that has seen air quality at dangerous levels.
Indonesia’s home affairs minister said some of the archipelago’s local elections could be postponed if severe haze lingered into December. The government has already declared December 9th a national holiday, with voters scheduled to go to the polls to decide nine provincial governor seats as well as more than 200 regency chiefs.
“I think the election could be delayed if areas are still in an emergency,” said the minister, Tjahjo Kumolo. “If there are still regencies and districts facing heavy smoke, there could be a delay.”
Internal government documents and on-the-record comments from senior minsters indicate Jokowi is readying what would effectively be an enhanced moratorium on all new peatland development in Indonesia.
In response, one of Indonesia’s most-prominent NGOs is advocating an expansion of the archipelago’s community-forest program.
“We support the idea that land previously owned by companies should be taken back by the state and returned to the community in the event of fire,” Hadi Jatmiko, the director of the South Sumatra branch of the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI), told Mongabay.
Community forest schemes in Indonesia are typically run through local cooperatives and offer residents right-of-use over a certain amount of land for a defined lease, often 30 years. Local offices of the environment ministry will permit a proportion of land to be used for productive agriculture but the remainder must be restored or preserved.
In Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province, fishing has been severely disrupted with many fishermen leaving their boats on the semi-autonomous province’s beaches because of low visibility.
“Other people burn the forest but it’s us that suffer,” Zulkarnaini, skipper of the fishing vessel Idi Rayeuk, told Mongabay.
Visibility in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, was 800 meters on Monday, while visibility of 200 meters in the port town of Lhokseumawe, halfway on the northern coast road to Medan, was creating dangerous driving conditions on Monday evening. In addition to the toxic smoke blown over by easterly winds, disaster management officials in the province are battling floods and landslides caused by heavy rain. A 50-meter section of road disappeared into the Alas river in southeast Aceh while landslips blocked many other roads in the province.