The haze continues to disrupt flights in various parts of the country, has caused health problems in hundreds of thousands of people and is harming relations with Singapore and Malaysia. (Antara Photo/Rony Muharman)

National Disaster: Indonesian Lawmaker Urges Action on Haze


OCTOBER 06, 2015

Jakarta. A House of Representatives special committee is needed to ensure the executive branch does all it can to mitigate the choking haze that continues to blanket Sumatra and Kalimantan, a lawmaker has said, calling the crisis a national disaster.

Lukman Edy, a deputy speaker at the House's Commission II covering governance, said such a committee is necessary to investigate the hundreds of companies whose concession areas have been burned as well as the executive's decision not to declare the haze a national disaster — despite more than 300,000 people having been treated for respiratory issues, the disruption of flights on a large scale, and souring relations with Malaysia and Singapore, which are also gravely affected. 

“The National Disaster Mitigation Agency [BNPB] directly reports to the president. Therefore we need to ask ... why they still have not declared this as a national disaster,” Lukman said on Tuesday.

“I do not see any coordination between the Ministry of Home Affairs and local governments,” he continued, adding that the governors and district heads of affected areas have been slow to respond to the issue.

The Health Ministry announced on Tuesday that more than 300,000 cases of respiratory illnesses have been recorded since the dry season began in June.

South Sumatra, which has a significantly higher population than Indonesia's other five provinces affected by the haze, also has the largest number of cases recorded at 83,276. Conversely, the sparsely populated province of South Kalimantan has the least, with 29,104 cases to date.

Combined, the six provinces, which also include Riau, Jambi, West and Central Kalimantan, have recorded a whopping 307,360 cases as of Monday.

According to the ministry, South Sumatra also has the highest level of air pollution. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reached 880 there on Tuesday, which is considered hazardous.

Meanwhile, air pollution levels in West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan have improved to the healthy and mild ranges of 44.16 and 55.46 respectively.

Health issues are on the rise, as the haze has been attributed to consequential respiratory and eye infections.

Additionally, the prolonged drought, which has caused wells to dry up, has also led to other health issues such as outbreaks of dysentery.