PUTRAJAYA: Amid reports of developing forest fires in Sumatra, Malaysia says it will hold on to Indonesia’s assurance that there will be no repeat of the haze crisis two years ago.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar 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 have received assurances from them that there will not be a repeat of the 2015 haze situation, which badly affected Malaysia and Singapore.
“They have taken many measures since 2015. These include setting up a specific department to tackle the issue and a special task force involving the police, the army and other authorities to handle forest fires.
“With the task force, their response to forest fires is quicker, 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 carry water to put out fires.
“I am quite confident with the assurance given by Indonesia, and we believe there won’t be a haze situation like in 2015 this year,” Dr Wan Junaidi said at a press conference here.
The minister added that since there was no haze crisis last year, Indonesia was already doing a good job.
“In 2016, there were about 200 hotspots in Sumatera at one point. Yet, there was no haze in our country. This is because Indonesia has stepped up efforts to prevent the haze. So, I believe it can be prevented this year too,” 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 illegal burning in Indonesia caused over a month of haze in Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand, triggering school closures and disrupting air travel.
Prior to the press conference, Dr Wan Junaidi 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.