The weather today is very bad because of the thick haze."
Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Haze from forest and plantation fires reduced the visibility in Pekanbaru to around 50 and 70 meters on Sunday.

"The weather today is very bad because of the thick haze. The government has set up a haze emergency task force and conducted cloud seeding to make rains, but, in fact, the haze in Riau is getting ticker," Hendri, a motorist, said.

A number of shops on Tuanku Tambusai road were closed due to the thick haze that could affect peoples health.

Pekanbaru has been blanketed by haze over the last one month.

Head of the Riau Haze Emergency Response Task Force Brigadier General Prihadi Agus Irianto said that fires had scorched a total of 13,009 hectares of forest and plantation areas in Riau over the past six weeks.

The task force has managed to extinguish fires on 10,618 hectares of forest, plantations, and peatland areas, but most the the areas still produced smog.

Of the 11,138 hectares of forest area that were razed by fires across the Riau province, about 3,000 hectares were located inside the GSK-BB biosphere reserve, Brigadier General Prihadi Agus Irianto, the head of the Riau Haze Disaster Response Task Force, said in Pekanbaru in Riau on Tuesday (March 4).

The Riau forest offices head, Zulkifli Yusuf, recently said the biosphere reserve is now badly damaged due to human encroachment and fires.

When visiting the biosphere reserve on Wednesday (March 5), Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan stated that 2,000 newcomers had encroached and set fires in the GSK-BB biosphere reserve.

"Currently, about 2,000 people hailing from the North Sumatra province have encroached in the biosphere reserve in the Riau province. They have cleared the forest area for oil palm plantation," Minister Zulkifli said at the Roesmin Nurjadin air force base in Pekanbaru.

The encroachment occurred in the biosphere reserves Core zone. "We strongly suspect that they were deliberately sent to Riau to encroach in the biosphere reserve," he said.

The task force, which has a total of 325 members, including 170 army officers, is trying to extinguish at least 12 hotspots detected in the biosphere reserve by dropping water bombs from four helicopters, including those belonging to Sinar Mas.

Editor: Priyambodo RH
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