Singapore 'committed to cooperating with Indonesia' to resolve haze crisis: MFA

An Indonesian woman rides a motorbike amid thick yellow haze in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia, Oct 23, 2015.
An Indonesian woman rides a motorbike amid thick yellow haze in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia, Oct 23, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA - Air pollution levels in Sumatra and Kalimantan fell on Sunday morning from hellish conditions the previous day, when the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in some parts of the two regions shot beyond four-digit PSI readings.

The PSI for Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan dropped to 970 at 1am, still within the "hazardous" zone but a far cry from more than 2,400 PSI on Saturday.

Other readings on Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) website showed that at 11am, the PSI for Palembang and Jambi - two cities in Sumatra that were badly hit by the haze this year - hovering at 455 and 282 respectively.

 

In Indonesia, anything above 350 PSI is deemed hazardous.

The haze, exacerbated by an extended dry spell, has affected millions across South-east Asia.

A firefighting assistance team from Singapore had returned home after a two-week mission to Indonesia on Saturday - the last among other similar teams from Australia and Malaysia to do so.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Sunday that although its direct involvement in the fire-fighting efforts in Indonesia has ended, the Singapore Government will continue to enhance bilateral, regional and international cooperation to tackle the root causes of the fires that cause haze.

"To this end, Singapore will continue to take legal action against errant companies responsible for the haze through the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA)," said the MFA spokesman. "We look forward to Indonesia's response to our repeated requests to share information on these companies, following its agreement to do so on 27 September 2015. This information will be critical in helping Singapore to take the fullest course of legal action against these companies under the THPA."

Singapore has since 2005 offered haze assistance packages to Indonesia and the latest deployment was "a demonstration of Singapore's commitment to work closely with Indonesia, and other affected countries, to address an annual problem which continues to affect Indonesia and many countries in the region, particularly the health and livelihoods of our peoples," she added.

"We look forward to resuming our bilateral environmental cooperation with Jambi Province which has been beneficial to the peoples of Jambi. Singapore hopes to expand such cooperation to other regions and provinces in Indonesia."

 

A massive operation is under way to prepare for what appears to be an imminent evacuation of thousands of babies and children from their homes in parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

This, as forest fires, which produce the toxic haze, continue to burn unabated despite the extensive firefighting resources dedicated to putting them out.