In­done­sia do­ing its best to com­bat haze: dis­as­ter chief

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

In­done­sia’s dis­as­ter chief Tues­day re­jected crit­i­cism his coun­try was not do­ing enough to com­bat the haze cri­sis, say­ing ev­ery pos­si­ble re­source was be­ing de­ployed to fight for­est fires blan­ket­ing South­east Asia in smog.

In­done­sia has come un­der grow­ing pres­sure from its neigh­bors in re­cent weeks as thick smoke from fires on Su­ma­tra and the In­done­sian part of Bor­neo has sent pol­lu­tion lev­els soar­ing in Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore, where schools have been closed and ma­jor out­door events can­celed.

The blazes flare up an­nu­ally dur­ing the dry sea­son as fires are il­le­gally set to clear land for cul­ti­va­tion. But an El Nino weather sys­tem has made con­di­tions drier, with this year’s haze on track to be the worst on record.

Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak has urged In­done­sia to take ac­tion, say­ing only Jakarta has the au­thor­ity to in­ves­ti­gate the cause of the fires and con­vict those re­spon­si­ble.

But In­done­sia has re­jected sug­ges­tions it is not do­ing enough, with the head of the coun­try’s dis­as­ter agency say­ing all pos­si­ble re­sources were be­ing used.

“We have done the best we can,” Willem Ram­pangilei told re­porters.

“It is un­der­stand­able if other coun­tries are up­set, but we In­done­sians are more up­set.”

Pol­lu­tion in Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia has risen be­yond haz­ardous lev­els since the haze out­break be­gan last month, while lev­els more than five times that limit have been recorded on the In­done­sian part of Bor­neo is­land.

Bor­neo is shared be­tween In­done­sia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Schools in many parts of Malaysia were closed for a sec­ond straight day Tues­day, part of a two-day shut­down an­nounced at the week­end as pol­lu­tion lev­els soared. Air qual­ity read­ings were un­healthy along parts of coun­try’s west coast fac­ing Su­ma­tra.

The haze spread as far as south­ern Thai­land, where pol­lu­tion lev­els were ris­ing fast, prompt­ing junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to call for a re­gional meet­ing on the cri­sis.

“We have to talk with the coun­tries where it ( the haze) orig­i­nates,” he said.

Sin­ga­pore has of­fered to help com­bat the fires, volunteering a Her­cules plane and IT ex­per­tise, but In­done­sia has in­sisted it has the equip­ment nec­es­sary to do the job.

Ram­pangilei said In­done­sia had four planes on standby to con­duct cloud seed­ing, but con­di­tions in the past week had stymied at­tempts to pro­duce ar­ti­fi­cial rain.

Ef­forts by more than a dozen he­li­copters to wa­ter-bomb hot spots have sev­eral times been thwarted by thick smoke, he added.

Ram­pangilei said more troops and po­lice would be de­ployed to fight the fires, join­ing more than 20,000 per­son­nel al­ready bat­tling the blazes, although he did not say how many re­in­force­ments were to be sent.

The haze has had a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on peo­ple’s health in In­done­sia, and more than 140,000 peo­ple have re­ported res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions in smog­choked ar­eas.

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