​After forest fire smoke hits Jakarta, House leader urges government to declare haze a national emergency

A girl in Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan, holds up a sign asking President Jokowi to evacuate residents from the haze-hit region. Much of Sumatra and Kalimantan have been submerged in toxic smoke from out-of-control wildfires and underground hotspots as a result of unchecked land clearing for agriculture and the year’s extended dry season due to El Niño. Photo courtesy of @twt_marathon

We’ve often heard people say that they wished the haze would hit Jakarta so that Indonesian politicians might actually take the ongoing environmental disaster seriously. Well this weekend, the haze finally did drift over the capital. And even though the smog was barely felt here, it does seem to have finally spurred some politicians to finally take action. 

House Speaker Setya Novanto (most well-known recently for his involvement in the “Trump Fiasco”) today urged the government to immediately declare the haze a national disaster. 

“Of course, we must make proposals to evaluate declaring this a national disaster. Because it has already struck a number of places and provinces. The amount is already widespread and it has already claimed casualties,” Setya said on Monday as quoted by Liputan6.

The Golkar politician said that every member of the House should check in with their constituencies, especially in areas that are being directly affected by the haze. He also said that he would talk with the rest of the House regarding the licensing and evaluation of companies operating in the areas where the fires that are causing the haze are burning. 

With the possibility of the fires lasting until next year, a declaration could help get more of people worst hit by the haze evacuated out of harm’s way, so we’ll try not to be too cynical and say that this is a good step (albeit one that should’ve come much sooner).

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