Singapore offers help to Indonesia to fight fires and haze as dry season starts

An aerial view of a forest fire burning near the village of Bokor, Meranti Islands regency, Riau province, Indonesia on March 15, 2016.
An aerial view of a forest fire burning near the village of Bokor, Meranti Islands regency, Riau province, Indonesia on March 15, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE -Singapore has offered aircraft, satellite photos of fires and fire-fighting assistance to Indonesia for the dry season, which starts in June.

The dry season from June to October often brings haze to the region.

The assistance package, which has been offered every year since 2005, is part of the Singapore Government's commitment to support Indonesia's fire mitigation efforts, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said in a statement on Tuesday (June 7).

This year, Singapore has offered up to two C-130 aircraft to fly a fire-fighting team from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), and help to provide fire-fighting assessment and planning to Indonesia.

The Government is also offering a C-130 aircraft for cloud seeding operations, high-resolution satellite pictures of fires and the coordinates of the fire sites.

Haze from land and forest fires has plagued South-east Asia for decades.

Illegal and unsustainable land clearing, in particular "slash and burn" agricultural practices by irresponsible companies, result in fires that cause the haze, MEWR said.

The haze last year was one of the worst and longest in history.

Schools closed after the Pollution Standards Index reading reached a hazardous 341 in late September.

It "had a major impact on the health and livelihoods of the people in Indonesia and many countries in the region", the MEWR statement said.

"The Singapore Government remains committed to working with the Indonesian Government and other like-minded partners to find more permanent solutions to this regional problem."