SINGAPORE has offered to help Indonesia fight its land and forest fires to prevent severe haze in the upcoming dry season.
It is willing to provide, among other things, high-resolution satellite images and hot spot co-ordinates, Singapore Civil Defence Force teams, and even an aircraft for cloud-seeding, the Environment and Water Resources Ministry said in a statement.
Willem Rampangilei, Indonesia’s deputy for the environment at the coordinating ministry for people’s welfare, said the country appreciated the offer, but would deploy its national capabilities first. “We do not reject the offer,” he said.
Singapore has also offered Malaysia help to combat such fires, though no details were given.
The Republic has offered haze assistance to Indonesia before. Since 1997, Jakarta has been using Singapore satellite pictures and hot spot co-ordinates and in 2005 it borrowed an aircraft and firefighters.
The annual regional haze is caused mainly by Indonesian farmers who take advantage of the dry season from June to October to burn land, clearing it illegally for agriculture.
The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index in Singapore hit a record, “very unhealthy” 246 last June 20, far above the previous record of 138 in 1997. The Environment Ministry has said this year’s haze could be worse due to the possible El Nino, which is linked to drier-than-usual weather in the region.
In April, Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya reportedly said the country would never again borrow equipment from Singapore and Malaysia, but he did not preclude future environmental collaborations.
He also said the two countries had previously lent Indonesia substandard equipment, which they had passed off as “considerable assistance”, thus making his country look bad.
Singapore’s Environment Ministry said it was “puzzled” by the comments about the equipment quality. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network