Palembang, South Sumatra (ANTARA) - Haze arising from forest fires and shrouding Palembang, South Sumatra Province, has thickened over the past week, Executive Director of Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) Hairul Sobri stated.

"Air quality in Palembang today is categorized as unhealthy due to smog from forest fires in several districts, such as Ogan Ilir, Banyuasin, and Ogan Kemering Ilir," he noted here on Monday.

He remarked that the air over Palembang is not only unhealthy but also tends to be hazardous, with pollutant level at over 250 micrograms per cubic meter (m3).

In accordance with the Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU), the levels of 0-50 micrograms/m3 is categorized as good; 50-150, moderate; 150-250, unhealthy; 250-350, very unhealthy; and over 350 micrograms/m3, hazardous.

Walhi has urged the authorities to extinguish forest fires immediately to prevent haze from spreading to wider areas and chocking local inhabitants, especially children and women, as the smog is hazardous.

The local and central governments must immediately extinguish the forest fires, as haze threatens the health of people.

Palembang health office head Dr Letizia remarked that a team had been formed as a precautionary measure against the increase in the number of people affected by haze.

Hundreds of Palembang residents were afflicted by respiratory illness since their city had been blanketed by haze.

He reminded local residents to wear face masks and stay indoors while the city is shrouded by smog.

Forest fires induced by the El-Nino natural phenomenon that triggered prolonged drought across Indonesia during this year's dry season have affected eight provinces in Indonesia.

However, only six have declared an emergency status for forest fire, according to Director of Forest Fire Mitigation Raffles B. Panjaitan of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry.

The six provinces are Riau, with the emergency status declared on Feb 19-Oct 31, or 255 days; West Kalimantan (from Feb 12 to Dec 31, or 323 days); South Sumatra (March 8-Oct 31, or 237 days); Central Kalimantan (May 28-Aug 26, or 91 days); South Kalimantan (June 1-Oct 31, or 153 days); and Jambi (July 23-Oct 20, or 90 days).
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Translator: Yudi Abdullah, Fardah
Editor: Suharto
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