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  Straits Times 1 Oct 07
Dramatic rise in Sumatra hot spots
But Malaysia says weak winds and rain mean no haze problem for now

PETALING JAYA - MALAYSIA says the number of hot spots in Sumatra increased dramatically from fewer than 100 last Friday to 332 just one day later.

But, for now, the Malaysian Meteorological Department is not worried about haze affecting the country. A department spokesman said at the weekend that Malaysia had not been affected because the winds blowing from Sumatra were weak and had not brought the haze over.

He added that wet weather over North and Central Sumatra helped to minimise any impact from the burning areas.

'Even if there are hot spots, they do not last very long because of the rain,' he said.

He added that the hot spots were located mostly in the province of Jambi, and that they were small fires.

Malaysia usually suffers from haze between August and October each year when the south-west monsoon blows particles released from widespread open burning in Sumatra and Kalimantan to peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.

Last week, Indonesia announced that it had rented two helicopters to help douse the fires that cause the haze to drift across the region. Forestry Minister Malem Sambet Kaban said the two Russian Kamov Ka-32A helicopters, rented from South Korea, have been deployed in West and Central Kalimantan, two provinces in the Indonesian part of Borneo that are among the areas most affected.

Mr Kaban said that the number of hot spots in the two provinces was already on the rise as Indonesia enters the peak season when farmers set fire to clear land for growing crops. He said the fires were mostly lit on private farms rather than in forested areas.

Despite a government ban on lighting fires, weak enforcement has allowed the practice to continue.

Activists insist the fires are also caused by owners of palm oil plantations clearing tropical peatland areas to plant oil palms.

Haze from the fires sent air pollution levels in Malaysia and Singapore to unhealthy levels several times last year. Singapore has escaped the haze so far this year because of the La Nina effect, which makes for a wetter- than-usual dry season. More rain also means that some of Indonesia's land- clearing fires could fizzle out, so there will be less haze blowing in.

Climate models around the world, including those of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Japanese Meteorology Agency, are forecasting a La Nina effect over the next few months.


Indonesia rents helicopters to douse haze fires Yahoo News 25 Sep 07
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