Sumatra Fires Affect Flights And Tourism In The Region Due To Poor Visibility

Every year is the same problems. Farmers and companies burn Sumatra forest to clear up land for palm oil plantations. This year seems to be worst than ever as haze is now blanketing large part of ASEAN Western region. Smog is persistent not only in Sumatra but also in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore as well as partially in Southern Thailand.

This year, the haze phenomenon is reinforced by a strong El Niño effect with drier than usual weather conditions for the prevailing Southwest Monsoon season. September should in fact turn drier than usual.

The haze is of course dangerous for health forcing people to wear masks, to stay home while schools are closed. In terms of economic impact, the haze affects manufacturing and agriculture production and has a severe impact on transportation. Since haze got worse in the last four weeks, flights’ disruption are affecting the region’s connectivity. Only last week and this week, many airports have been closed in Sumatra and sporadically in Malaysia.

Flights have been delayed in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, while Singapore continues to accommodate flights. According to Changi airport’s authorities, measures have been adopted to ensure the continuity of flight operations should the haze condition worsen.

The heavy pollution resulting from haze could however affect international tourism events in Singapore. According to Singapore newspaper the Strait Times, organisers of the Formula One night race in Singapore this weekend, which will also include outdoor concerts by Maroon 5 and Bon Jovi, said they have a “contingency plan” for the haze and will work with relevant agencies before making any decisions on the event.

Running events in Singapore were already affected such as SingTel’s “Race Against Cancer,” which had to be cancelled on Sunday.

According to Malaysian authorities, 34 areas nationwide were recorded high Air Pollutant Index (API) while air quality in Kuala Lumpur and several Malaysian states as well as Singapore reached unhealthy levels.

Indonesia declared a state of emergency in Sumatra’s Riau province after forest fires put its air quality at a dangerous level.
Indonesian military are now stepping up efforts to extinguish the fires and assist residents.

(Photos: Todayonline and Huffington Post)