"Zero chance" of haze like last year in Singapore and region, says Indonesian official

The skyline shrouded in haze on Oct 23, 2015, when the 3-hr PSI was 217.
The skyline shrouded in haze on Oct 23, 2015, when the 3-hr PSI was 217. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE- There is "zero chance" that a haze of last year's magnitude will blanket Singapore and in the region, said Mr Nazir Foead, head of Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency.

" I cannot guarantee that there won't be fires... but the scale of the fires that create haze... will dramatically be less," said Mr Nazir who was speaking to reporters on Friday (April 15) at the 3rd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Set up by in January this year by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the agency's target is to restore two million hectares of peat land in various parts of Indonesia including Riau, parts of Kalimantan and Jambi.

Work is already underway to map out provinces which have had their land destroyed in last year's fires, said Mr Nazir. Out of the total 2.26 million hectares which have been mapped out, about 360,000 hectares of land were under "conservation status".

Maps, which will be made public, can be expected to be ready by three months from now.

In his speech, Mr Nazir said that the Indonesian Government was "shocked" over what happened last year and that, instead of just looking at just mitigating fires, itis now looking at how these fires can be prevented.

"We're not in a denial stage anymore. We're in the stage of correcting mistakes of the past," he added.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulklfli said at the dialogue that there must not be a repeat of last year's prolonged fires.

He said: "We cannot afford to have massive release of carbon that negates global efforts to combat climate change as what has happened last year."

Separately, the chairman of the Singapore Environment Council Isabella Loh said the SEC will be launching a new certification category for pulp and paper products later this year. It will require companies to meet the criteria for peat land management, among other things.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg