Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Razak urges In­done­sia to act on smoke-belch­ing fires

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Malaysia’s premier has urged In­done­sia to act against those re­spon­si­ble for rag­ing fires that have blan­keted South­east Asia in smog for weeks, as Malaysian schools closed again Mon­day over health con­cerns.

The re­gional en­vi­ron­men­tal cri­sis has caused flights and ma­jor events to be can­celled, and forced tens of thou­sands of peo­ple in In­done­sia, Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore to seek med­i­cal treat­ment for res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems.

“They (plan­ta­tion com­pa­nies) are op­er­at­ing there, we want In­done­sia to take ac­tion,” Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak was quoted as say­ing by state news agency Ber­nama late on Sun­day.

“Only In­done­sia alone can gather ev­i­dence and con­vict the com­pa­nies con­cerned.”

The blazes flare an­nu­ally dur­ing the dry sea­son as fires are il­le­gally set to clear land for cul­ti­va­tion on In­done­sia’s is­land of Su­ma­tra and in the In­done­sian por­tion of Bor­neo is­land.

Ex­perts have warned that this year’s flare-up is on track to equal or sur­pass an in­fa­mous 1997 haze out­break that sent pol­lu­tion soar­ing to record highs and caused an es­ti­mated US$9 bil­lion in eco­nomic dam­age across the re­gion.

In­done­sia has sent more than 20,000 troops, po­lice and other per­son­nel to fight fires in an ef­fort that has in­cluded wa­ter­bomb­ing and chem­i­cally in­duced rain­fall.

In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo’s of- fice said he was “very se­ri­ous in tack­ling the for­est fires” but that dry weather caused by the El Nino cli­mate phe­nom­e­non posed a chal­lenge.

Pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ari Dwi­payana told AFP that com­pa­nies found to be re­spon­si­ble for light­ing fires could have their busi­ness per­mits re­voked, but added: “All this takes time.”

Malaysian author­i­ties had or­dered school clo­sures last month due to bad air qual­ity, and over the week­end an­nounced schools across much of the coun­try would close again on Mon­day and Tues­day.

Ber­nama said Na­jib, speak­ing on a trip to Italy, blamed the fires for wors­en­ing air qual­ity and added that the haze was also af­fect­ing Malaysia’s econ­omy.

In­done­sia has for years faced pres­sure from its neigh­bors to ad­dress the prob­lem, but the haze re­curs an­nu­ally to vary­ing de­grees.

Sin­ga­pore of­fi­cials last week ex­pressed im­pa­tience with In­done­sia, and Malaysia’s Na­jib said the three coun­tries must work to­gether to for­mu­late an ef­fec­tive strat­egy to tackle the an­nual en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter.

Poor air qual­ity forced the can­cel­la­tion of ma­jor events at the week­end.

In Sin­ga­pore races in the FINA World Cham­pi­onship — swimming’s World Cup — were called off on Satur­day, and one of Malaysia’s big­gest marathons set for Sun­day in Kuala Lumpur was can­celled.

Some lo­cal Malaysian soc­cer matches have also been shelved.

league

AP

A Malaysian Mus­lim man jogs past the Sultan Salahud­din Ab­dul Aziz Shah Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque slightly ob­scured by haze in Shah Alam, Malaysia on Sun­day, Oct. 4.

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