Smoke Signals From Palangkaraya : A City’s Cry for Help Amid Unyielding Fires

As relentless forest fires smother Palangkaraya, the city issues an urgent, global plea for assistance in a battle against an environmental crisis spanning over two decades.
In an urgent cry for help reverberating beyond its city limits, the authorities in Palangkaraya, Indonesia, have officially declared a state of emergency. For weeks, the city has been suffocated by relentless forest fires, resulting in a hazardous haze enveloping the area and significantly degrading air quality. With PM 2.5 pollution levels skyrocketing to over 600, the air in Palangkaraya has become a silent, invisible killer, with its toxicity equivalent to the damage caused by smoking 18 cigarettes a day.


Ongoing Crisis

Schools have been indefinitely shut down, leaving education in limbo, and residents are gasping for clean air as they navigate through this environmental crisis. Every day, the haze grows thicker, bringing with it a sense of desperation among the populace. This calamity has persisted for an agonizing two months, with no immediate end in sight, affecting the daily lives and health of the city’s inhabitants.
A team of dedicated young firefighters has been tirelessly battling the blaze for six consecutive weeks, working on the front lines to extinguish fire spots and provide some relief to the beleaguered city. Despite their unyielding efforts, resources are stretched thin, and they urgently require additional support to continue their vital work.

Haze Shelter Initiative

In response to the escalating emergency, the group has established a ‘Haze Shelter,’ a safe haven where affected individuals can seek refuge from the poisonous atmosphere. The shelter, which hosts an average of four to ten people daily, offers its occupants essential supplies such as masks, vitamins, medicine, water, and food, as well as access to oxygen and electricity. The daily operational cost of maintaining this crucial facility stands at 300,000 IDR (approximately 20 USD
However, the financial strain of sustaining both the firefighting efforts and the shelter is taking its toll. The youth firefighters’ daily operations, including the rental of pickup trucks, gasoline, meals, and water for five personnel, amount to 700,000 IDR (around 50 USD) per day. Without adequate funding, these initiatives are unsustainable in the long run.
In these trying times, the team is extending a heartfelt appeal to the international community for assistance. Each contribution, regardless of its size, plays a pivotal role in supporting the ongoing efforts to protect both the endangered forests and the people bearing the brunt of this environmental disaster. Donations are being accepted to aid in the continuation of these lifesaving initiatives; please consider contributing to this urgent cause.

Lead image (illustration of forest fires) courtesy of Gece33 from Getty Images Signature.