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. Indonesian Rain-Making Stymied As Haze Lingers Over Region

Smoke haze over Singapore. Photo courtesy of AFP.

Paper firm posing threat to Indonesian forest: WWF
Jakarta, Oct 19 - Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the world's largest paper companies, poses a threat to a massive peatland forest sheltering rare animals on Indonesia's Sumatra, conservation group WWF said Friday. The report accuses APP of hiding "its continued destruction of natural tropical rainforests that house Sumatran tigers and elephants" in the 400,000-hectare (nearly one million-acres) Kampar Peninsula in Riau province.

APP is gearing up to clear forest which lies on top of a deep peat dome despite proposals by WWF and the Sumatra-based environmental group Jikalahari to turn the area into a national park, the report said. "If APP would abide by its own 'conservation beyond compliance' propaganda, none of this forest would be cleared," Nazir Foead, WWF-Indonesia director of policy and corporate engagement, said in the report.

"But apparently the company decided to run a global propaganda campaign rather than protect forests with high conservation values," he said. APP has pulped close to a million hectares of Riau's natural forests since it began operation in 1980s, the report said. The WWF said that at a meeting in June, APP refused to guarantee that high conservation value forests would be excluded from its future logging and wood sourcing operations.

"APP simply cannot afford to protect natural forests as it needs wood to keep its pulp mill running," Foead said, adding that the firm would continue to pulp the remaining forests until "none are left to be cut." No APP spokespeople could be immediately reached for comment. The firm defaulted on debt worth 6.7 billion dollars in March 2001, amounting to what may have been one of the largest corporate defaults in emerging markets history.

by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Oct 19, 2006
Indonesian efforts to chemically induce rains to douse illegal land-clearing fires which have enveloped the region in haze were being stymied by a lack of clouds, officials said Thursday. The annual environmental nightmare has this year shut down airports and schools on Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra and also spread to neighbours Malaysia and Singapore, irking governments and residents there.

Pollution levels in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur reached levels considered unhealthy by air pollution indexes again Thursday, prompting Singapore authorities to warn people with heart or respiratory ailments to stay indoors.

Indonesian Forestry Ministry spokesman Masyud said cloudseeding was planned for Sumatra's hard-hit Jambi province and for Central and West Kalimantan, but a dearth of clouds meant it was not possible.

"We have the chemicals and the budget, but there has not been enough rain clouds and wind in all three provinces, causing the haze to linger in the air longer than usual," the spokesman said.

As Indonesia came under increasing pressure to act to douse blazes set by large plantations and farmers across the region, he said the plan "will be carried out as soon as possible".

The government has outlawed land-clearing by fire, but weak enforcement means the ban is largely ignored.

In Singapore Thursday, the three-hour average pollution index at 2:00 pm (0600 GMT) was 106 after worsening from earlier in the day, the National Environment Agency said on its website.

A reading above 101 is considered unhealthy and an advisory remained in effect urging people with heart or respiratory ailments to reduce physical exertion or outdoor activity.

Singapore's air quality has reached the unhealthy range for most days since the weekend, as the foggy haze lingers in the city-state known for its cleanliness and green environment.

Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, was also shrouded in "unhealthy" levels of haze for a second straight day Thursday as smoke continued to drift from the Indonesian fires.

The air pollutant index in Kuala Lumpur registered 101, within the range of 101-200 categorised as unhealthy. Johor, separated from Singapore by a narrow strait, registered 100.

However, air quality cleared in other parts of the country, including the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, on Borneo Island, which were badly affected in recent weeks.

Visibility at Kuala Lumpur International Airport fell this week to three kilometres (1.86 miles), well down on the normal 10 kilometres, but officials said it had not affected air travel.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week apologised to Malaysia and Singapore for the effects of the haze.

Environment ministers from Singapore, Malaysia and other regional nations met last week in a bid to thrash out how to tackle the problem.

They urged Indonesia to promptly ratify a 2002 regional treaty aimed at preventing cross-border haze pollution, which would allow a fund to pay for emergency action to fight fires to be activated.

earlier related report
Unhealthy haze lingers in Malaysian capital
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Oct 19 - Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur was shrouded in "unhealthy" levels of haze for a second straight day Thursday as smoke continued to drift from illegal Indonesian fires.

The air pollutant index in Kuala Lumpur registered 101, within the range of 101-200 categorised as unhealthy. Johor, which is separated from Singapore by a narrow strait, registered 100.

However, air quality cleared in other parts of the country, including the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, on Borneo Island, which were badly affected in recent weeks.

Visibility at Kuala Lumpur international airport fell this week to three kilometres (1.86 miles), well down on the normal 10 kilometres, but officials said it had not affected air travel.

Singapore's air quality was also poor this week, registering in the unhealthy range for the second day Tuesday and prompting the government to warn people with heart or respiratory conditions to stay inside and avoid exertion.

Indonesian farmers burn forests annually to clear land for agriculture, causing a haze that spreads across the region during the dry season, affecting tourism and increasing health problems.

Environment ministers from Singapore, Malaysia and other regional nations have urged Indonesia to ratify a treaty aimed at preventing cross-border haze pollution.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
The Air We Breathe at TerraDaily.com
Learn about Climate Science at TerraDaily.com

Haze Hits Unhealthy Level In Malaysian Capital
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Oct 18, 2006
Air quality in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur and the southern state of Johor hit unhealthy levels Wednesday due to smog from Indonesian forest fires that is also blanketing Singapore. Kuala Lumpur was shrouded in a white haze as the air pollutant index jumped to 108, according to environment department data. A reading of 100-plus is considered unhealthy.

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