Haze fight not an easy one for Indonesia

Living on our small and easily managed island, we are not able to comprehend the size of the haze-causing fires in Indonesia, the amount of smoke that they generate, and how far they have spread depending on wind direction and velocity ("Annual haze crisis to stay, despite Indonesia's efforts"; yesterday).

I have made a number of trips to some of the most remote parts of Indonesia to look at oil and gas projects, so I can understand how this problem is going to be with us for a long time to come.

It is good that both the Singapore and Indonesian governments are talking and trying to find a solution. But I doubt even the Indonesian authorities are fully aware of how best to tackle the issue.

So, there is very little that can be done on our side except talk, and persuade, but without interfering.

It can be a delicate matter and we have to be at our diplomatic best in order to see even minimal results.

No nation can be an island unto itself, more so in Singapore's case, where two larger land masses - Indonesia and Malaysia - stare down at us. There is no running away from the fact that we become affected, sometimes adversely, by what happens in these two countries - be it environmentally, politically or even economically.

It is essential that we understand this and find ways to adapt, and even live with the issues that may arise as a result.

It is also important not to lose our cool, or shoot our mouths off about it, as I have heard some Singaporeans do.

Talking with our neighbours, and trying to help where possible, is still the best course of action. It is in the spirit of Asean solidarity and is the only way to resolve our differences.

And eventually, hopefully, the haze should go away. But as Indonesian President Joko Widodo said, it could take years ("Indonesia needs three years to solve haze problem, says President Joko Widodo"; ST Online, Wednesday).

That is the reality facing us. So, we must be ready to ride it out.

Manoraj Rajathurai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline 'Haze fight not an easy one for Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe