Indonesia gives assurance 2015 haze will not recur this year

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 11 Jul 17;

JAKARTA: Indonesia has given the assurance that the massive forest fires that caused thick haze to blanket parts of the country and its neighbours in 2015 will not recur this year.

Indonesia has put in place several processes and resources to prevent a similar episode from happening, Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Tuesday (Jul 11) at the end of his visit to Palembang and Jakarta.

On Monday, Mr Masagos met South Sumatra governor Alex Noerdin in Palembang.

The following day in Jakarta, Mr Masagos met Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto and Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

During these meetings, Mr Masagos took the opportunity to revisit the transboundary haze issue. He noted that Indonesia's efforts to tackle forest fires have already seen good results last year.

"There was little haze that came to Singapore and I complimented the efforts by the government. President Jokowi had personally carried out meetings with the various apparatus of the government locally and nationally to ensure the occurrence of haze that happened in 2015 does not happen again," Mr Masagos said to Singapore media.

Mr Masagos added that Singapore stands ready to help Indonesia fight transboundary haze in the region.

"We do stand ready to offer, should it be activated at this point of time, assets like the C130 plane which can be activated to Indonesia to do cloud seeding. We also stand ready to ship our SCDF (officers) and their equipment, as well as to provide accurate satellite maps to know where the hotspots are occurring, wherever these are activated by the Indonesian government," said Mr Masagos.

Among the measures taken by Indonesia to tackle the forest fires: The introduction of a five-year moratorium on the issuance of new permits for palm oil concessions. Several provinces that were prone to forest fires were also quick to declare emergency status upon detecting hotspots; and last year, the Peatland Restoration Agency was set up to restore millions of hectares of degraded peatland.

"The result has been extraordinary. This year, the hotspots that occur - previously there were thousands, but now (there are) only hundreds. It means the government's efforts are also being appreciated by other countries, especially Singapore, which always gets the haze that affects the lives of its people," said Mr Wiranto to reporters, after meeting Mr Masagos at his office.

Mr Masagos also reiterated that the Singapore government will continue supporting efforts to prevent haze from occurring.

"We will use the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act to its full effect, if we can, against directors of companies who let fire continue unabated, causing haze to Singapore. If they are in Singapore, they have to answer for the things that their company has or has not done. If they are guilty, or we find they are chargeable, we will put them to court," said Mr Masagos.

Mr Masagos said that Singapore and Indonesia are also interested in beginning cooperation in the areas of waste management, waste-to-energy management and water management.


Indonesia ready to prevent a repeat of haze crisis: Masagos
Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said he received assurance from regional and national officials in Indonesia that the transboundary haze crisis in 2015 will not happen again.
Francis Chan Straits Times 11 Jul 17;

JAKARTA - Indonesia is ready to prevent a repeat of the transboundary haze crisis, which last occurred two years ago, resulting in record air pollution levels across the region.

Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said he received the assurance from regional and national officials in Indonesia during his two-day visit to Indonesia this week.

"We have already seen good results last year that there was little haze that came to Singapore and I complimented the efforts the government (and) President Jokowi who… personally carried out meetings with the various apparatus of the government, locally and nationally to ensure the recurrence of the haze that happened in 2015 does not happen again," said Mr Masagos, referring to Indonesian President Joko Widodo by his popular nickname.

The minister, who was speaking to reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday (July 11) before he returned to Singapore, had met senior officials from Palembang in South Sumatra province, as well as the capital Jakarta, to reaffirm Singapore's commitment and cooperation with Indonesia in addressing environmental challenges.

In 2015, raging flames from land burning in Kalimantan and Sumatra led to a transboundary haze crisis that was not only the worst on record, but had also pushed Indonesia to the verge of a national emergency.

The choking haze led to widespread efforts by the government to prevent and suppress land and forest fires early and these have kept the number of hot spots in Indonesia low so far, although experts have said favourable weather conditions have also helped.

Mr Masagos noted the assurances from his meetings with South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin and Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto, "that there have been a lot of processes and resources that have been put in place to prevent a recurrence of the haze this year".

He also said Singapore respects Indonesia's wish to tackle the haze issue on its own and recognises that its efforts have seen some good results with little or no haze affecting Singapore last year.

Singapore, however, is ready to offer assistance and, should it be needed, assets such as a C-130 aircraft from the air force can be sent to Indonesia to conduct cloud-seeding to help put out fires, he added.

"We also stand ready to ship our SCDF… as well as to provide accurate satellite maps to know where the hotspots are occurring - wherever these are activated by the Indonesian government, we will stand ready to help," he added.

Mr Masagos' visit comes just two months before Indonesia and Singapore are set to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties and his trip was also meant to underscore the importance of close relations. "President Jokowi will be visiting Singapore in September and all of us want to celebrate this on a positive note," he added.

The minister also met Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, who offered to cooperate with Singapore in areas of waste-management, waste-to-energy management, and water management with the various ministries under his charge.

Mr Wiranto said during his meeting with Mr Masagos that there is a need to strengthen the relationship between the two countries regardless of political and economic circumstances, "because good relations and political or economic success go hand-in-hand".

He also thanked Singapore for its willingness to assist Indonesia on its fight against forest fires. "Cooperation on this issue is needed now and in the future because the haze brings suffering to people," said Mr Wiranto. "I hope cooperation on this issue can be taken to the next level."


Singapore pledges cooperation with Indonesia to tackle haze
SIAU MING EN Today Online 13 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — Ahead of the need for continued vigilance in the upcoming dry season, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli has told Indonesian leaders that Singapore is committed to help combat fires should the need arise.

During a two-day visit to Jakarta and Palembang which ended on Tuesday, Mr Masagos reaffirmed the Republic’s commitment to cooperate with Indonesia in addressing environmental challenges, including the haze issue.

He told Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto in Jakarta that Singapore is prepared to provide a C-130 aircraft for cloud seeding operations, a Singapore Civil Defence Force team to provide assessment and planning assistance in fire-fighting efforts, up to two C-130 aircraft to ferry the fire-fighting assistance team, as well as high-resolution satellite pictures of fires and the coordinates of the fire sites.

Mr Masagos also expressed his appreciation for the measures put in place by the Indonesian Government, which contributed to the haze-free skies last year.

Thanking Mr Masagos for conveying the Singapore Government’s support, Coordinating Minister Wiranto also stressed the need for close cooperation in combatting the haze.

Transboundary haze, a long-standing problem in South-east Asia, is largely caused by the drainage of carbon-rich peatland, as well as fires started by farmers and companies to clear land for agriculture and industrial plantations.

Between September and November 2015, Singapore experienced its worst haze, with the Pollutant Standards Index hitting hazardous levels.

In Palembang, Mr Masagos met South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin who shared the province’s efforts to prevent fires during the upcoming dry season and beyond. These include early warning alerts for hotspots, regional deployment of assets for quicker response to fires, and a stronger coordination among all stakeholders.

Singapore also affirmed its willingness to collaborate with South Sumatra on training and sustainable development programmes.

At an earlier panel discussion at the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources in April, Mr Noerdin pledged that Singapore and the region will not experience haze arising from forest fires in the Indonesian province this year despite forecasts of a longer and hotter dry season.

During his visit to Indonesia earlier this week, Mr Masagos also met with Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

They discussed collaboration on water and waste management, and waste-to-energy (WTE) systems.

Mr Luhut expressed interest in learning more about WTE processes and technologies, including conducting technical exchanges and capacity building initiatives.

Noting the strengthening bilateral ties, both Mr Masagos and Mr Luhut said there is scope to build on this long-standing relationship for further cooperation. SIAU MING EN

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