Flights and shipping operations have also been disrupted by the hazy conditions in Jambi. (Antara Photo/Wahdi Septiawan)

Smoky Haze Forces Jambi Schools to Close


AUGUST 29, 2015

Jambi. The Jambi city administration decided on Saturday to keep all schools closed, as the region struggles with smoke from nearby forest fires.

On Friday the city had already asked playgroup and elementary school students to stay home to avoid having to pass through the thick smoke.

State-run Indonesian schools usually open on Saturdays.

Abubakar, head of the city administration public relations department, said that Mayor Syarif Pasha made the decision on Friday night, worried about the unhealthy conditions for students having to venture into the hazy streets.

Another official, Ahmad Putera of the city's education agency, said school holidays had been extended in some areas in light of the bad air quality.

The smoky haze originates mainly from fires in the province's East Tanjungjabung and Muarojambi districts, activists say.

A study by the local conservation group KKI Warsi and the Bogor Institute for Agriculture (IPB) estimates economic losses due to the fires to be at least Rp 716 billion ($50 million) so far this year.

"There's losses due to palm oil plantations burning down on peatlands, there's losses due to flight and shipping disruptions, there's air pollution causing a lot of people to suffer respiratory tract infections and there's environmental damage," said Rudy Syaf, a spokesman for KKI Warsi.

According to Rudy, local authorities have not been doing enough to prevent the fires, which he said are often started by people looking to clear forest areas.