JAKARTA: Indonesia will “truly be ashamed” if it cannot resolve the transboundary haze problem, said President Joko Widodo as he tasked the relevant agencies to double up efforts to tackle the problem.
According to a report by news site Tempo, Mr Widodo said during a national coordination meeting on wildfires on Tuesday (Aug 6) that he was disappointed with how the haze issue has again made regional headlines.
“Take extreme caution on this issue, we will truly be ashamed if we fail to solve this issue,” he reportedly said.
He noted that while those in Malaysia and Singapore were generally glad that there has been no severe transboundary haze since 2015, the massive forest fires four years ago had harmed Indonesia’s economy and ties with its neighbours.
Regional countries including Singapore and Malaysia are affected by the annual haze and Indonesia recorded the highest number of hot spots this year - at 975 so far - since the disastrous fires in 2015.
Satellites on Tuesday morning detected 433 hot spots across Indonesia, with the Riau province recording the largest number at 132, according to the National Disaster Management Authority.
Indonesian authorities have sent nearly 5,700 firefighting teams to extinguish the flames in the various provinces; 33 helicopters have also been deployed, along with two aircraft to seed clouds to induce rainfall.
Last week, the Meteorological Service Singapore said there may be occasional haze in the next few weeks or months as drier-than-normal weather conditions have been forecast in the coming weeks for Singapore and the surrounding region, including Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Malaysia has also been feeling the effects of the haze. On Wednesday, the Department of Environment’s website indicated that the Air Pollutant Index measured at Johan Setia, Selangor was in the “unhealthy” range. Other monitoring stations in Malaysia recorded “moderate” readings.
DIRECTIVES ISSUED TO PREVENT AND OVERCOME FOREST FIRES
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, the Indonesian leader said he has issued four directives to the relevant district heads, police officers and armed forces personnel.
“First, prioritise prevention via integrated patrols and early detection, so that daily conditions on the ground are always monitored. Second, I ask the relevant government officials, especially the Peat Restoration Agency, to organise sustainable management of the peat ecosystem,” he said.
He also said that if there are fires, they should be put out as soon as possible and not be allowed to spread. Punishment for the culprits should be meted out “without compromise”, he concluded.