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Environment minister Vivian meets counterpart in Jakarta on haze problem

Published on Jun 21, 2013 4:14 PM
In this handout photograph released by Indonesia's Ministry of Environment on June 21, 2013, Singapore Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (left) hands Indonesian counterpart Minister Balthasar Kambuaya (right) a letter from Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during their bilateral meeting to discuss the haze problem in Jakarta on June 21, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP/BACHRAN/INDONESIA MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT (MOE)

JAKARTA - There is a necessity for immediate action to tackle the haze on the ground, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said, adding that it affects millions not just in Singapore but also in Malaysia and Riau.

And he hopes the next day or two will see concrete measures, he said, noting that Indonesia says it is carrying out water bombing and cloud seeding.

He was speaking to Singapore reporters after calling on his counterpart, Professor Balthasar Kambuaya, at Indonesia's environment ministry here on Friday afternoon.

He presented a letter from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that contained information on the situation in Singapore, a set of requests, and offers of assistance to help tackle the haze.

The Pollutant Standards Index in Singapore crossed the 400 mark at noon - a record high. It has since fallen.

"This is a situation that has never happened before. And our people are angry. They want to see action on the ground." But he added: "The relationship between Indonesia and Singapore is a strong relationship."

And the minister has said Indonesia is taking action on the ground, he noted.

Dr Balthasar said investigations are underway and as many as eight companies - foreign and local - may be involved. 
Water bombing and cloud seeding action will also begin soon, he added. He also stressed the need for cooperation.

He will travel to Riau as early as tonight to join four ministers to coordinate efforts there. They are Coordinating welfare minister Agung Laksono, Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan and Agriculture Minister Suswono, he added. 

Both Dr Balakrishnan and Dr Balthasar also agreed to bring forward a meeting of Asean environment ministers to tackle the issue.