More than 20 million people face health risks due to the smoky haze in large parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan. (Antara Photo/Rony Muharrman)

Jokowi Schedules Riau Trip as Haze Crisis Resurfaces


SEPTEMBER 04, 2015

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has announced he'll visit haze-hit Riau province "in the coming days," a senior official said on Friday, to help find a solution for the recurring problem of forest fires.

"The president is very concerned about the forest- and wildfires. He'll go to Riau tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, depending on the visibility," Syamsul Maarif, chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), told reporters after a meeting with the president at the State Palace in Jakarta.

Data from the BNPB shows that 22.6 million people in Sumatra and Kalimantan could face health problems due to the haze, and visibility in large parts of these islands has been less than 500 meters, forcing airports and schools to close.

Last November, the president, who is also widely known by his nickname Jokowi, made his first Riau visit in connection to rampant fires on Sumatra and Kalimantan, which also often cause transboundary haze problems, affecting neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Joko, who has an educational background in forestry, has previously said that farms should be run by local people, rather than corporations, to help curb the haze crisis.

Indonesia's Environment Ministry has said peat fires contributed to 25 percent of the country's carbon emissions between 2000 and 2005, second only to deforestation.

Ahead of a big UN Climate Change conference in Paris in December, the ministry recently announced a more ambitious emissions reduction target: 29 percent by 2030. Currently the nation's target, which was set back in 2009, stands at 26 percent by 2020 and the country has only achieved half so far.