PUTRAJAYA: Amid reports of developing forest fires in Sumatra, Malaysia said it will hold on to Indonesia's assurance that there will be no repeat of the 2015 haze crisis.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (pic) has expressed confidence in the measures taken by the Indonesian government to combat forest fires in the aftermath of the 2015 incident.
"During meetings with my Indonesian counterparts, including a recent one in Singapore this April, I received assurances that there would not be a repeat of the 2015 haze situation, which badly affected Malaysia and Singapore.
"Since 2015, they have taken such measures including the setting up of a specific department to tackle the haze issue and a special taskforce involving the police, the army and other authorities to handle forest fires.
"With the taskforce, they now respond quicker to forest fires, and many fires have been put out before they could spread.
"Indonesia has also increased its fire fighting assets, including the purchase of helicopters that could carry water to put out fires from above.
"I am quite confident with the assurance given by Indonesia, and we believe there won't be a repeat of the 2015 haze situation this year," said Dr Wan Junaidi at a press conference here on Wednesday.
The minister added that the fact there was no haze crisis last year showed that Indonesia had done well to prevent the situation.
"In 2016, there were about 200 hotspots in Sumatra at one point. Yet, there was no haze in our country," he said.
Reports from Indonesia revealed that there are currently 170 hotspots across the country, mostly in Aceh, East Nusa Tenggara and West Kalimantan.
In 2015, smoke from mass illegal burning in Indonesia caused over a month of haze in Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand - triggering school closures and disrupting air travel.
Dr Wan Junaidi earlier opened the 18th International Seminar on Current International Issues Affecting Forestry and Forest Products as well as the 20th Meeting of the Asean Senior Officials on Forestry.