Stronger ASEAN cooperation needed to tackle haze, says Masagos as Singapore offers help to Indonesia
SINGAPORE: There is a need for "stronger resolve and cooperation" among ASEAN countries to tackle the issue of transboundary haze, said Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Saturday (Sat 14) amid the worsening air quality in the country.
Singapore's 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) on Saturday hit unhealthy levels for the first time since August 2016, with the reading going beyond the 100 mark at 4pm.
"The return of the haze is a reminder of the seriousness of the problem, which has affected the ASEAN region for years. It both pollutes the air we breathe and emits greenhouse gases that cause climate change," Mr Masagos wrote in a Facebook post.
"This is why there is need for stronger resolve and cooperation amongst ASEAN countries and stakeholders, in order to achieve our vision of a haze-free ASEAN by 2020."
Mr Masagos added that Singapore has offered help to Indonesia to fight forest fires there.
"As always, we stand ready to help suppress the fires on the ground. Singapore has offered technical firefighting assistance to Indonesia and is prepared to deploy them if requested by Indonesia," he said.
Malaysia had also offered to help Indonesia put out the forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, with environment minister Yeo Bee Yin earlier this week reiterating her country's concern over the impact of persistent transboundary haze.
According to Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA), the haze worsened on Saturday afternoon due to the convergence of winds over the nearby region, leading to more smoke haze blowing from Sumatra.
Hazy conditions are expected for the rest of the day, NEA added.
It said 450 hotspots were detected mostly in Indonesia's Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra provinces, a "sharp increase" from the 156 hotspots on Friday.
Forest fires have raged through parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan in recent weeks, prompting the Indonesian government to send in military and police to douse the flames.
Air quality in Indonesian towns closest to the fires have risen to hazardous levels and earlier this week, thousands held mass prayers for rain.
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