Kompas Online

Friday, 26 September 1997

President asks all sides to participate in coping with the smog problem

Jakarta, Kompas Online

President Soeharto has appealed to all strata of society to mobilize and together cope with the smog problem. The Head of State also affirmed that the smog problem represents a national natural disaster, although it can not yet be categorized as a sta te of emergency, but remains at Level I State of Alertness.

That affirmation was conveyed by the Minister/State Secretary Moerdiono and the Minister Coordinator of People's Welfare Azwar Anas separately to journalists, after having been received by President Soeharto in Merdeka Palace, Jakarta, on Thursday (25/9). Minister/State Secretary Moerdiono said that until this moment the government, both central and regional, together with the community were trying hard to cope with the smog problem.

That is important, because the smog problem is causing considerable disruption of air traffic, health and daily life. To this end, President Soeharto has instructed the entire apparatus, both at the center and in the regions, and appeals to the entire com munity, to jointly mobilize themselves to cope with the smog disaster.

"And once again, as I said, the President asks the entire government aparatus both at the center and in the regions, and the general public, to jointly endeavor, in their respective fields under coordination of the agencies I mentioned earlier, to jointly cope with that disaster," clarified the Minister/State Secretary. He said that the problem is handled by the National Coordination Body for Disaster Management.

Community members who want to contribute personally to coping with the forest and field fires, or want to extend aid in the form of medicines, food, drinks and others, can come to the Command Post of the National Coordination Body for Disaster Management at the offices of the Minister Coordinator of People's Welfare, Jl. Merdeka Barat No. 3, telephone 3507251, fax 3453283.

National natural disaster

Separately in the same location, Minister Coordinator of People's Welfare Azwar Anas said that President Soeharto has instructed that the smog problem be categorized as a national natural disaster, although it has not yet reached the emergency level, but is still at the Level I State of Alertness. "Yes, this is a national natural disaster. A state of emergency has not yet been declared, it is not necessary. But it is a national natural disaster," he said.

The forest and peat land fires are still continuing in the South Sumatra region, chiefly in the area of the Musi Banyuasin Regency and the Ogan Komering Ilir Regency. At least 17 Industrial Tree Forestry and plantation enterprises have burning tracts and hotspots. On Wednesday (24/9) fire was reported to be spreading on the land of two enterprises.

Regional agriculture and forestry officials disclosed that on Wednesday (24/9), 428 hotspots were monitored by satellite. That total has decreased compared with the previous day's 744 hotspots (23 September), but shows increase against 22 September with 1 99 hotspots.

Quoting reports from governors, Azwar Anas said that that this smog problem has started to become controllable. He also hoped that the Department of Health would help the governors with masks and medicines, mainly keeping in mind that the smog very much b othered breathing.

He said that the most important thing at present is to eliminate the dense smoke. Because as long as there is still smoke, artificial rain cannot be created. Up to this moment, the Level I State of Alertness area includes Jambi, South Sumatra, Riau, Lampu ng, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and East Kalimantan. According to Azwar, the level of fire has already decreased.

Azwar disclosed that Indonesia also has received offers of aid from Japan in the form of 300 portable jet shooters worth Rp 430 million. But Indonesia still hopes that Japan will help with masks and medicines. "They are willing, except they say they are s omewhat reluctant with regard to fire extinguisher bomb airplanes. Maybe the cost is high," said the Minister Coordinator. Besides that, the government has also received offers of help from France, South Korea and the United States.

Kompas reporter J Osdar reported from the Philippines that Philippine President Fidel Ramos has offered aid to Indonesia to cope with the fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra through the Minister of State Apparatus Reordering, TB Silalahi, on Thursday ( 25/9) in the Malacanang Palace.

An official from the South Sumatra Regional government disclosed that 436 firefighters from Malaysia are expected at Musibanyuasin on Thursday at 20.00 hours West Indonesia Time. Of those, 100 will be assigned to Musibanyuasin Regency, while the remainder will be assigned to Ogan Komering Ilir Regency for two weeks.

While on duty in the South Sumatra region, the forest firefighters from Malaysia will be aided by at least 600 firefighters from the Armed Forces and the Civil Defense.

Meanwhile eight Malaysian firefighting specialists in West Kalimantan have started surveys in the Ketapang and Sintang Regencies, where there are still glowing embers. The Tanjungpura University Students Senate in Pontianak has distributed 2,700 masks fre e of charge to the public in Pontianak.

Smoke victims

Dust particles in the town of Pontianak have reached 1.8903 milligrams per cubic meter of air, far above the normal maximum of 0.26 milligrams per cubic meter. Thus the quality of the air in Pontianak now endangers the inhabitants. The mayor of Pontianak placed advertisements in the local newspapers yesterday (Thursday 25/9) on how to cope with the air pollution.

>From 1-25 September, 424 citizens of Samarinda have been treated in hospitals for disorders due to breathing of smoke, two among them have died. This was stated by East Kalimantan Governor HM Ardans SH to the press during a visit to the A Wahab Sjachrani e hospital in Samarinda on Thursday (25/9). Of that number, 229 persons had contracted pneumonia, 91 patients had throat complaints, and 34 people suffered eye irritation. The two people who died were already in serious condition. (*)