Haze-hit Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Bjorn Vaughn)

BNPT Labels Indonesia's Haze Crisis a Crime Against Humanity


OCTOBER 24, 2015

Jakarta. Indonesia's haze crisis continues to worsen, with over 43 million people already breathing in the toxic fumes from forest and peat fires, leading the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to speak of a "crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions."

The BNPB said on Saturday that satellite images show parts of the Greater Jakarta region are now also affected.

At least ten people have died from exposure to the haze so far in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the hardest-hit parts of the country.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the BNPB, said several people died during efforts to extinguish the flames while others fell gravely ill and died after breathing in the toxic fumes, mostly because they had an existing health condition.

The death toll cited by Sutopo did not include seven hikers who were killed in a forest fire on Mount Lawu in East Java on Oct. 18. Two others from the same group remain in critical condition.

More than 500,000 cases of acute respiratory tract infections due to the haze have been reported in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, and West, Central and South Kalimantan in the period from July 1 until Friday, the BNPB spokesman said.

Sutopo stressed that these were only the recorded cases, so the extent of suffering in these six provinces, where a state of emergency has been declared, is likely much higher.

The spokesman said that "99 percent" of the fires were lit intentionally, meaning that the haze crisis should be considered a man-made disaster.

"This is a crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions," Sutopo said. "But now is not the time to point fingers but to focus on how we can deal with this quickly."

Conservation scientist and Jakarta Globe columnist Erik Meijaard previously described the ongoing disaster as "the biggest environmental crime of the 21st century."

Correction:  This article previously identified Sutopo Purwo Nugroho as a spokesman for the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), while in fact he works for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).