Indonesia gives assurance 2015 haze will not recur this year

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JAKARTA: Indonesia has given the assurance that the massive forest fires that caused thick haze to blanket parts of the country and its neighbours in 2015 will not recur this year.

Indonesia has put in place several processes and resources to prevent a similar episode from happening, Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Tuesday (Jul 11) at the end of his visit to Palembang and Jakarta

On Monday, Mr Masagos met South Sumatra governor Alex Noerdin in Palembang.

The following day in Jakarta, Mr Masagos met Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto and Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli (R) and Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan on Jul 11, 2017 in Jakarta. (Photo: Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources)

During these meetings, Mr Masagos took the opportunity to revisit the transboundary haze issue. He noted that Indonesia’s efforts to tackle forest fires have already seen good results last year.

“There was little haze that came to Singapore and I complimented the efforts by the government. President Jokowi had personally carried out meetings with the various apparatus of the government locally and nationally to ensure the occurrence of haze that happened in 2015 does not happen again,” Mr Masagos said to Singapore media.

Mr Masagos added that Singapore stands ready to help Indonesia fight transboundary haze in the region.

“We do stand ready to offer, should it be activated at this point of time, assets like the C130 plane which can be activated to Indonesia to do cloud seeding. We also stand ready to ship our SCDF (officers) and their equipment, as well as to provide accurate satellite maps to know where the hotspots are occurring, wherever these are activated by the Indonesian government,” said Mr Masagos.

Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli (R) and South Sumatra governor Alex Noerdin pose for photographs on Jul 10, 2017 in Palembang. (Photo: Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources)

Among the measures taken by Indonesia to tackle the forest fires: The introduction of a five-year moratorium on the issuance of new permits for palm oil concessions. Several provinces that were prone to forest fires were also quick to declare emergency status upon detecting hotspots; and last year, the Peatland Restoration Agency was set up to restore millions of hectares of degraded peatland.

“The result has been extraordinary. This year, the hotspots that occur – previously there were thousands, but now (there are) only hundreds. It means the government’s efforts are also being appreciated by other countries, especially Singapore, which always gets the haze that affects the lives of its people,” said Mr Wiranto to reporters, after meeting Mr Masagos at his office.

Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli (R) in talks with Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto (L) in Jakarta on Jul 11, 2017. (Photo: Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources)

Mr Masagos also reiterated that the Singapore government will continue supporting efforts to prevent haze from occurring.

“We will use the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act to its full effect, if we can, against directors of companies who let fire continue unabated, causing haze to Singapore. If they are in Singapore, they have to answer for the things that their company has or has not done. If they are guilty, or we find they are chargeable, we will put them to court,” said Mr Masagos.

Mr Masagos said that Singapore and Indonesia are also interested in beginning cooperation in the areas of waste management, waste-to-energy management and water management.

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