Singapore offers Indonesia aid in countering haze

Assistance - an annual offer since 2005 - includes aircraft and satellite photos of fires

Singapore has offered aircraft, satellite photos of fires and fire-fighting assistance to Indonesia for the dry season, which runs from this month to October and often brings haze to the region.

The assistance package, 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 yesterday.

This year, Singapore is offering up to two C-130 transport planes to fly a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) fire-fighting team to Indonesia and one C-130 aircraft for cloud seeding.

It is also offering high-resolution satellite pictures of fires in Indonesia, coordinates of the fire sites, as well as fire-fighting assessment and planning.

Last year, the Indonesian government initially turned down Singapore's offer of assistance before changing its mind.

In October, 40 Singapore Armed Forces and SCDF personnel were sent to fight fires in Palembang in Sumatra province. Two C-130 planes transported the team and equipment to the area. A CH-47D Chinook helicopter with a 5,000-litre water bucket for aerial firefighting was also dispatched.

For decades, haze from land and forest fires in Indonesia has plagued other parts of South-east Asia.

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 in Singapore closed after the Pollutant Standards Index reading reached a hazardous 341 in late September.

"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," the MEWR statement said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore offers Indonesia aid in countering haze'. Print Edition | Subscribe