Think-tank SIIA explores ways to map hotspots amid haze

In 2013, ASEAN leaders approved a joint haze monitoring system, but there have been roadblocks in implementing the system. The Singapore Institute of International Affairs hopes to make these maps available to the public through its website.
Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: In 2013, ASEAN leaders approved a joint haze monitoring system, which was supposed to help identify companies or farmers that resort to slash-and-burn tactics to clear land.

However, there have been roadblocks in implementing the system. A local think-tank is looking for ways to get around the problem.

The haze monitoring system uses satellite pictures, hotspot data and concession maps to pinpoint who is responsible for fires that cause the haze.

However, Malaysia and Indonesia have been reluctant to release concession maps, with senior officials from Indonesia stressing that they are prohibited from sharing these maps publicly.

Said assistant director of sustainability at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) Cheong Poh Kwan: "In the context of Indonesia, a big problem is that there are no standardised up-to-date and authoritative concession maps that can be revealed to the public and so this is a huge problem in the case of fire and haze tracking, because without the maps, it is very hard for us to establish accountability with fires being out of control."


SIIA is looking for an alternative solution. It went to Jakarta and Bogor in Indonesia earlier this week to meet non-governmental organisations, environment groups and private sector companies.

“What we learnt from the mapping experts we met in Indonesia is that mapping is actually not technically challenging with the help of technology, and is technically feasible,” said Ms Cheong. “In fact, the Civil Society in Indonesia has already mapped five million hectares of land and these are usually land with a lot of problems, with land conflicts; they are contested between the local communities and companies that have come into their area to try and develop it. So technically, it is not challenging.

“The bigger challenge is, how can we then get the government to recognise these maps, and also reconcile the differences between these community maps and the ones that the government has in their possession. Different ministries may also have different concession maps. And then, how do we get the different parties to understand and acknowledge and respect these boundaries when the maps are done."

The trip was a precursor to a meeting in November, which SIIA is convening to get experts to discuss and collaborate on haze mapping.

"In the absence of official maps, maybe we can think about using a platform to host unofficial maps that can be submitted, either by companies themselves or by mapping experts in Indonesia that are already doing the work with the help of local communities,” said Ms Cheong.

“So if these maps can be gathered, verified, then perhaps it could still help with the fire and haze monitoring system, and they can also potentially be used as powerful evidence for the operationalisation of the haze law," she added.

The think-tank hopes that these maps will be made available to the public through its Haze Tracker website. The site aims to help plug the information gap and provide a measure of accountability.


SIIA also said that Jakarta's efforts to fight the haze have been weak due to the decentralised nature of Indonesia's government.

Said Ms Cheong: "From what we understood from a lot of NGOs that we have spoken to, the reason why a lot of plans that the central government has in place are not carried out is because the regional authorities are not doing what they are told to do.

“So in the instance of Riau, we know that there is already a fund allocated for them to stop the start of fires in the first place. Unfortunately, the fund was not fully utilised, because on their budget, it is stated that the fund is used for fire suppression and not fire prevention. So because of some of these administrative and technical complexities, the plan that the central government has in place is not carried out at the local level."

Ms Cheong also advised that one possible solution would be to reallocate the budget to provide more funding for fire prevention as well as fire suppression, and to ensure that future directives by the central government are more explicit in fighting the haze.

- CNA/ek

Cloud hangs over enforcement of anti-haze law
Audrey Tan, Samantha Boh, Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Sep 15;

A law to punish polluters who cause the haze has been lauded as an innovative and significant environment and public health law, but experts have pointed out challenges to its enforcement.

Inadequate policing in Indonesia, where the burning takes place, and a lack of reliable information on land ownership and usage there make it difficult to take errant companies to task, they say.

The law is also limited to foreign firms with a presence in Singapore, but prosecuting them here would not curb the practice of burning land there.

As National University of Singapore law professor Alan Tan said: "It is hard to see how prosecuting a few companies in Singapore can deter others when the practice of burning is so widespread and entrenched in Indonesia."

The experts were responding to queries on the recent breaches in the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, passed in Parliament in August last year. The Act targets those responsible for causing or condoning fires if burning results in unhealthy levels of haze in Singapore.

Those guilty can be fined up to $100,000 a day, capped at a total of $2 million, for causing unhealthy haze, defined as a 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) value of 101 or greater for 24 hours or more.

There have been two such breaches since last week, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said on Tuesday.

The first was a 41-hour stretch that took place between 10am on Sept 10 and 2am on Sept 12, and the second was a 109-hour stretch that lasted from 8pm on Sept 12 to 8am on Sept 17.

The authorities said then that they are investigating both cases, which require information from various sources, such as maps, meteorological data and satellite imagery.

But experts have pointed to Indonesia's complex, often overlapping land ownership and usage rights as the primary difficulty in gaining knowledge on the sources of pollution.

"Land use and land tenure in Indonesia are governed by a complex web of national, provincial and customary laws that often compete and perhaps even conflict with each other," said Singapore Management University (SMU) law don Eugene Tan. "It is not at all clear, for the purpose of a successful prosecution, who might own a piece of land."

Dr Nigel Sizer, global director of the forests programme at United States-based think-tank World Resources Institute, agreed, saying: "Some fires occur in concessions managed by companies, but others occur outside concessions or are lit by individuals. Tools like Global Forest Watch can identify the location of the fires, but it can still be challenging to attribute individual fires to a specific actor, and in many cases, concession boundaries are highly disputed."

Indonesia's lack of willingness in sharing concession maps has long been cited as one of the main reasons that hinder law enforcement efforts in affected areas. Last month, a top Indonesian environment official said the country could not disclose plantation concession information, even from government to government, as doing so would breach Indonesian law.

SMU's Assistant Professor Mahdev Mohan, who has a research interest in public international law, said: "The absence of transparency when it comes to authoritative concession maps on land ownership, and specific data about what is happening within these concessions and surrounding areas, is striking."

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan told reporters on Tuesday that he has appealed to the Indonesian Environment and Forestry minister for the names of companies currently being investigated by the authorities there. He said: "I want to make sure all executives, shareholders, owners, financiers of such companies know how seriously we take this issue, and that if we can get the evidence, we will not hesitate to take the fullest action possible against these companies."

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Event organisers take steps to protect guests from haze

Yasmine Yahya, Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Sep 15;

Visitors and investors streaming into Singapore for the Formula One (F1) race this weekend can look forward to wining and dining in style as usual, with organisers taking precautions to protect their guests from the effects of the haze.

The organisers of the Singapore Summit, an annual meeting of thought leaders discussing economic and finance issues, have made provisions to have N95 masks available to participants at the summit venue.

About 450 delegates are expected this year, where the highlight will be a dialogue with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

There have not been any cancellations specifically because of the haze, said Ms Linda Sein, executive director of the Global Asia Programme Office at the Economic Development Board.

Some of these delegates might very well be spending the weekend at the F1 race as well, where private banks say client events will go on as planned.

A Citi Singapore spokesman said the bank has invited about 200 clients to watch the race. So far, none of its invited guests has pulled out because of the haze.

DBS Bank, which is hosting about 100 wealth and corporate clients at its F1 corporate hospitality lounge, is taking some precautions. "Air purifiers will be installed in our hospitality lounge and we are also sending N95 masks by courier to our guests before the event. The masks will also be provided in our event goodie bags," said Ms Karen McGregor, senior vice-president of group strategic marketing and communications at DBS.

Organisers of outdoor events taking place this weekend are also playing it safe.

Singapore Management University is holding its SMU Mile Run for which about 300 participants have signed up.

"The run will be converted into a walking event if the three-hour PSI is in the 101-150 range and the event will be cancelled if the three-hour PSI exceeds 150," said SMU Provost Professor Lily Kong.

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Shanmugam calls Indonesian counterpart to convey 'deep concern' over haze

Mr Shanmugam emphasised that all ASEAN states should fulfil their obligations under the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze signed by all of the group's 10 members.
Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: With hazy conditions set to persist in Singapore, Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam called Indonesia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi on Friday (Sep 18) to express deep concern about the haze situation.

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Mr Shanmugam highlighted to Mr Retno that the haze situation had attracted international attention, and there is focus on how regional countries are dealing with the issue.

During their conversation, Mr Shanmugam also told Mr Retno that the recurrence of the haze has both immediate and long-term health impacts on Singaporeans and others in the region. Mr Shanmugam added that the haze has a negative economic impact on the entire region, including Indonesia. To effectively combat the haze issue, greater regional efforts and cooperation are needed, he said.

Mr Shanmugam also emphasised that all ASEAN states should follow through and fulfil their obligations under the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze which all 10 ASEAN members have signed. This includes operationalising the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System.

The steps taken thus far by the Indonesian government to address the haze issue - including the declaration of states of emergency in provinces affected and its investigations on errant companies suspected of causing the fires - was welcomed by Mr Shanmugam, said MFA.

He said strong action needed to be taken against those companies, and urged the Indonesian authorities to share the names of those companies so Singapore can take action against them.

"Minister Retno said that the names of errant companies would be conveyed through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources," said MFA, adding that Mr Shanmugam welcomed this and said Singapore would take action against the companies to the fullest extent of its laws once the names were provided.

Mr Shanmugam also emphasised to Mr Retno the importance of finding a longer-term solution to address the causes of the haze, MFA said.

Indonesia has yet to accept an offer from Singapore to deploy Singapore Armed Forces aircraft to help douse the forest fires. It initially accepted the offer only to turn it down days later.

- CNA/dl

Haze now has world’s attention, Shanmugam tells Jakarta
Today Online 18 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE — In a telephone call today (Sept 18) to express deep concern over the ongoing haze situation in Singapore, Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said to his Indonesian counterpart that the haze had attracted international attention, and there was focus on how regional countries were dealing with it.

Noting that transboundary haze had a negative economic impact on the entire region, Mr Shanmugam sought greater regional cooperation and stressed that member states of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) should fulfil their obligations under the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which includes operationalising the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System.

Mr Shanmugam’s comments during his call to Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi were outlined in a statement issued by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs today. Mr Shanmugam said strong action needs to be taken against errant companies behind the forest fires in Indonesia. He welcomed Ms Retno’s statement that the names of these errant companies would be conveyed to Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, said Singapore would take action to the fullest extent of its laws once the names are provided. He also welcomed steps taken by the Indonesian government to combat the haze and stressed the importance of a longer-term solution to address the causes behind the recurrent problem.

Separately, Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said in a press conference today that the authorities will begin naming several companies from next week. Sanctions they could face for starting fires include the withdrawal of their licences.

Air quality in Singapore deteriorated today because of haze blown in by the wind.

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index at 8pm was 79 to 92, in the moderate range. The one-hour PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) at 8pm was 63 to 87 microgrammes per cubic metre.

Occasional hazy conditions are expected tomorrow, with air quality ranging from moderate to unhealthy, said the National Environment Agency.

Indonesia decision on haze help up to Jokowi
Indonesia's environment minister says the country's president must decide whether to accept Singapore's offer to help battle forest fires in Sumatra.
Saifulbahri Ismail and Sujadi Siswo, Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 15;

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has not yet decided if it will accept help from Singapore to put out the forests fires currently raging in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

At a news conference on Friday (Sep 18), Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said the decision on whether to accept help or not is a national decision to be made by President Joko Widodo.

Ms Siti told reporters that in her previous conversation with Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore had offered to send one Chinook helicopter, one water bombing aircraft and a team to conduct assessment works.

She said she appreciated Singapore's offer of help and hopes the republic is able to send more aircraft to fight the fires.

Indonesia has already activated 24 aircraft in its efforts to extinguish the fires. President Widodo ordered the mobilisation of hundreds more troops and enforcement officers to tackle the forest fires, which have caused air quality to reach hazardous levels in Riau.

Earlier this week, Indonesian media reported that vice-president Jusuf Kalla had called on Singapore to help. "Singapore please come and tackle the haze because the effect is also felt by Singapore. Everyone dislikes it and we have put in extra effort to tackle the fires," he said.

On Friday, Mr Kalla told reporters that forest burning in Sumatra is part of a natural risk that should be accepted by neighbouring countries. "Neighbouring countries already enjoy 11 months of clean fresh air from Indonesia, thus if they suffer from the haze in a month, that is just a risk," he said.

He also mentioned that forest fires in Sumatra were part of a "natural disaster", adding that forest fires also occurred in the United States in the Californian forest area.

He said currently, Indonesia was putting effort to extinguish the fires in Sumatra. "It's a nature problem. We are already trying very hard and spent money deploying almost 20 planes to extinguish the fire, but it's difficult to handle."

Minister Siti Nurbaya will be meeting with her Malaysian counterpart next week in Jakarta, to discuss how to tackle the haze crisis.

Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar earlier said a memorandum of understanding would be signed between the two countries, along with Singapore, Brunei and Thailand on what actions to take. They will also explore how to help Indonesia put out the fires.

However, Dr Wan Junaidi later told Channel NewsAsia his meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, meant to take place next Friday, was postponed indefinitely. He added: "Jakarta must have the political will to solve the perennial haze menace once and for all."

Currently, Indonesian law dictates that provinces will have to declare an emergency before the central government and foreign countries can help. The meeting is aimed at reducing red tape and speeding up the provision of aid.


Ogan Komering Ilir - east of South Sumatra province - has the highest number of hotspots.

“There are fires from the land of plantation companies. They are also caused by cigarette butts and there is land burned for clearing, for a variety of reasons. There are many irresponsible people," said Dani, a resident.

Other villagers argued that they have already stopped clearing their land using the slash and burn technique.

“Villagers will only burn their land after they have cordoned the area to prevent the fire from spreading. They won’t start the fire if it can possibly spread, so the burning was done earlier. During the fire-prone period - which is now - no villagers will burn their land. We are not allowed to anymore," said farmer Ogan Komering Illir.

South Sumatran authorities are blaming the weather, saying they underestimated the severity of the dry spell.

"We started water-bombing and weather modification in July. At that time there was no fire. There was no hotspot. But we made the peat land wet. But suddenly on August 26, boom, because that was the peak of the hot season; very extreme," said South Sumatra governor Alex Noerdin.

So far, Indonesia has arrested executives from seven companies accused of contributing to the haze and air pollution in the region. More than 20 companies in South Sumatra are now under investigation and some are foreign-owned.

“Some people have already been arrested. Some companies have already been accused. But we need to have proof otherwise we have difficulties in the court. So investigations are now in progress," Mr Nordin said.


Meantime, there was a slight improvement in haze levels in Singapore on Thursday, but the air quality remained unhealthy for the east Malaysian state of Sarawak. Authorities say schools in Sarawak will remain closed.

Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed it would evacuate 173 Malaysians badly affected by the haze in Pekanbaru. Two Royal Malaysian Air Force C-130 aircraft will be deployed to evacuate the group.

On Wednesday, the air pollutant index registered readings above 200 and there were also some disruptions to air traffic due to poor visibility.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency said the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading was expected to remain within the moderate range for much of Thursday due to prevailing wind conditions.

Slightly hazy conditions can be expected if the wind changes direction.

- CNA/

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Sembcorp, EDB to provide test bed for water, environmental technology firms

Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: Technology companies will be allowed to develop and test environmental solutions at Sembcorp Industries' waste water treatment and waste-to-energy facilities on Jurong Island, Sembcorp announced on Friday (Sep 18).

Called the Sembcorp Industrial Living Lab initiative, the partnership between Sembcorp and the Economic Development Board (EDB) allows technology providers to carry out applied research and development (R&D) in areas such as smart water systems and carbon capture.

The initiative will also see Sembcorp and EDB jointly investing up to S$8 million to support the commercialisation of R&D projects from the pilot-testing stage to market-ready levels.

EDB Assistant Managing Director Lim Kok Kiang said the partnership with Sembcorp will strengthen Singapore's position as a Global Hydrohub and provide another commercialisation pathway for water research investments.

"It is also aligned with Singapore's aspiration to be a living lab where companies can develop, test and commercialise urban solutions in a real-life setting before scaling up for the region and beyond,” he added.

Sembcorp, a Singapore engineering and marine conglomerate, provides energy and water solutions to industrial and municipal customers around the world. The group also develops and manages industrial parks in several countries and is involved in the offshore and marine business through subsidiary Sembcorp Marine.

- CNA/xq

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NEA calls for tender for e-waste management study

The study should include a survey of the e-waste collection and recycling value chain, as well as proposed systems for the collection, management and recycling of the waste, says NEA.
Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Friday (Sep 18) called for a tender to conduct a study on the collection, recycling and management of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste), amid the increasing use of electronic devices.

NEA said it will use the study findings to consider a system for collecting and recycling e-waste. The study should include a survey of the e-waste collection and recycling value chain, including the final treatment and disposal. Using the results of the survey, the successful bidder should propose cost-effective and efficient systems for the collection, recycling and management of e-waste, NEA added.

The tender opens on Friday and closes at 4pm on Nov 5, 2015. The study is expected to start in December and end in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Currently, Singapore generates about 60,000 tonnes of e-waste from households and industrial and commercial sources. The amount of e-waste is growing as technology advances, resulting in faster product replacement, said NEA.

“E-waste may contain valuable and scarce materials, but also small amounts of hazardous substances which may pose pollution and health concerns if not properly disposed of,” NEA said.

- CNA/xq

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Lots of fun, food and art for PARK(ing) Day 2015

Parking lots around Singapore were transformed into spaces for street art, music and entertainment for a day as part of a worldwide celebration.
Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: For circus practitioner Yap Zhijing, there is much more to do at a parking lot, than park a car. Ms Yap and her friends stopped traffic and turned heads at Rowell today with their street art, busking, and freestyle soccer tricks.

"We're here to really create some interesting installations, to let people rethink the way we live, and the way we see our public spaces," said Ms Yap, 27. "We're trying to encourage people to walk more often, and see our surroundings and neighbourhood."

Ms Yap and her friends are just one group who took part in PARK(ing) Day 2015, an international movement to bring life to streets and public spaces. This is the third time the event is taking place in Singapore, with 140 parking lots around Singapore being used as creative spaces on Friday (Sep 18), featuring street art, music performances, and even an outdoor karaoke competition.

"You're asking your normal citizens and your residents to come and activate urban spaces again, to make normal forgotten spaces something you can linger and pay more attention to," said arts manager Jean Hair. For PARK(ing) Day this year, the 31 year old set up two refurbished pianos at the Aliwal Arts Centre. Called "Play It Forward," Hair hopes passers-by will "unleash their inner pianist", while giving old pianos a second lease of life.

But it is not just about the entertainment. Some are also using the space to share their culture.

"We're letting people try the differences between Indian food, Bangladeshi food, and see if they can spot the difference," said Shannon Lim, director of construction firm, Onhand Industrial.

The 29-year-old was giving out meals of curry fish and rice to passers-by at Rowell Road alongside his workers. And he says there needs to be "greater awareness and acceptance, of the people that built the flats and quite literally built the parking lots that we're on right now."

PARK(ing) Day has arguably grown more popular since it first started in 2013. There are 70 "PARKS" this time around, compared with 52 last year.

But the movement has drawn mixed reactions. While some welcomed the initiative, others said it inconveniences drivers, especially when events are held at lunch in crowded areas like the Central Business District.

But ultimately, the Urban Redevelopment Authority said the intention is also to give people a chance to transform their city.

"The challenge is really not about putting the event together," said URA's director of Urban Planning, Tracey Hwang. "It's about changing the mindset of people to help people appreciate the importance of public spaces in our built environment, and to be able to understand what fewer car park lots could do, and how it will benefit the larger community."

PARK(ing) Day is one of the initiatives under URA's PubliCity programme. Others include "Play at Jalan Besar" - a series of life-sized games and installations, open till the end of October.

Play and unwind at parking lots around Singapore
AsiaOne 18 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE - Parking lots across Singapore will be transformed into arts spaces today (Sept 18) as part of the third local edition of the international PARK(ing) Day movement.

A total of 140 parking lots located at 70 clusters such as Bras Basah, Bugis, the Central Business District, and Tiong Bahru will be transformed into 'PARKS', with activities such as street magic performances to a freestyle football demonstration.

Visitors to Jalan Besar can also try their hands at ping pong, hoops, a giant-sized chess game and even a back lane maze, organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The activities at Jalan Besar is part of PLAY, an initiative to activate various public spaces in the area to allow residents and visitors to enjoy the neighbourhood in a delightful way.

PLAY will run from Sept 18 to Oct 30, URA said in a statement today.

The PARK and PLAY initiatives are part of URA's PubliCity programme aiming to involve the community in celebrating and enlivening public spaces through good design and programmes.

Ng Lang, Chief Executive Officer of URA, said, "The energy at this event was inspiring last year, and we do not expect any less this year. It is testimony that our people love our city, and want to contribute in responsible and creative ways to enliven our streets and public spaces."

Members of the public are encouraged to add the hashtags #PubliCitySG and #PARKingDaySG to their pictures and videos on Facebook and Instagram, or share them at the PARK(ing) Day Facebook page.

For more information about the PARKs and their locations, please log on to

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Indonesia says it needs 30 days to control fires

Potential for haze until end-Nov because of El Nino, but aim is to put out majority of fires by mid-Oct: Agency spokesman
Today Online 18 Sep 15;

JAKARTA — Indonesia will take 30 days to bring smouldering forest fires under control, the national disaster management agency said today (Sept 18), as smog from the fires pushes pollution in South-east Asia to record highs.

Indonesia has faced criticism from neighbours and green groups for not doing enough to prevent the fires, which cause millions of dollars worth of damage to health and the environment every year.

“We expect there will be a potential for haze because of the El Nino effect until the end of November, but we are targeting to put out the majority of the fires by mid-October,” agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho told Reuters.

The region has suffered for years from annual bouts of smog caused by slash-and-burn practices in Indonesia’s islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, but governments have failed to tackle the problem.

Malaysia today announced plans to evacuate 173 of its citizens “badly affected by the haze surrounding Riau province” from provincial capital Pekanbaru, using two C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Indonesia has said it was investigating about 100 companies in the latest crackdown to tackle smog worsened by a prolonged dry season.

The rainy season usually begins in November.

Next week, the authorities will name several companies likely to face sanctions for starting fires, including possible withdrawal of licences, Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar told a news conference today.

On an offer of assistance from Singapore, she said the decision whether to accept help or not is a national decision to be made by President Joko Widodo.

Yesterday, she had reportedly said that her country has declined Singapore’s offer, adding that Indonesia is “still trying to handle it ourselves”.

Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen have reached out to their Indonesian counterparts, offering an assistance package that includes a C-130 aircraft for cloud-seeding operations, a Chinook helicopter with a water bucket for aerial fire-fighting, and up to two C-130 aircraft to ferry the Singapore Civil Defence Force fire-fighting assistance team.
Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla had earlier been reported as inviting Singapore to help tackle the haze.

“Singapore is ready to help, so I think, please do, because Singapore also knows a natural disaster can occur anywhere,” Mr Kalla reportedly told Indonesian news outlet Liputan6 on Tuesday at his office in Jakarta.

Today, Mr Kalla said that forest fires in Sumatra is part of natural risk that should be accepted by neighbouring countries.

“Neighbouring countries already enjoy 11 months of clean fresh air from Indonesia, thus if they suffer for the haze in a month, that is also a risk,” he told reporters. He also mentioned that the forest burning in Sumatra is part of “natural disaster”. It also happen in the United States in California forest area, he said.

He also said that currently Indonesia is putting effort to extinguish the fire in Sumatra forest.

“It’s a nature problem. We already trying very hard and spent money (to extinguish the fire), we already deploy almost 20 plane extinguisher for that, but it’s difficult (to handle),” he added.

Indonesia has deployed nearly 3,000 troops and 24 aircraft to help fight the fires. AGENCIES

Rain comes, but haze remains
Rizal Harahap and Syamsul Huda M. Suhari, The Jakarta Post 18 Sep 15;

The rain that has poured over several regions across Sumatra and Kalimantan over the last two days has failed to significantly lower the intensity of the haze that has blanketed the fire-scorched parts of the country. Despite the rain, the haze continues to disrupt the activities and movement of local residents, and has disrupted operations at local airports.

“Haze at destination airports, especially in Pekanbaru, Jambi and Medan, has yet to dissipate significantly, and some flights are still being cancelled,” said Suwarso, head of Hang Nadim Batam International Airport’s general affairs division, in Batam on Thursday as quoted by Antara news agency.

The haze that has blanketed Hang Nadim for the past two weeks has caused a total of almost 100 flights to have been cancelled.

Similarly, state-run airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II’s Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport said that airline companies serving routes to Pekanbaru had rescheduled their flights due to haze from forest and land fires in Sumatra.

In Pontianak, students from state-run senior vocational high school SMKN 5 and state-run Islamic senior high school MAN 2 Pontianak were rushed to Anton Soedjarwo Bhayangkara Hospital on Wednesday after falling unconscious while attending classes.

One of the students, Lady Planeta of SMKN 5 Pontianak, said the haze had been relatively thick when they began class at 8 a.m. Some 20 minutes later, the thick haze started to enter the classrooms, causing the students to faint, one after another.

“We complained of sore throats. We coughed and couldn’t breathe, and then we fainted,” said Lady.

In response to the deteriorating situation, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has repeatedly pledged to take stern legal action against all parties, including forest concession owners, deemed responsible for land and forest fires.

In Pekanbaru, PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo (LIH) general manager Frans Katihokang was arrested by Riau Police’s special crimes detective (Reskrimsus) directorate after being grilled for six hours in relation to the fire on the plantation company’s 533 hectare concession in Pangkalan Gondai subdistrict, Langgam, Pelalawan regency.

Apart from PT LIH, some 10 other plantation companies in Riau are also thought to have been involved in, or to have neglected to properly deal with, fires on their respective concessions.

Meanwhile, at least 20 hectares of protected forest in North Dulamayo, Telaga Biru district, Gorontalo have been razed by fire.

“We’ve had difficulties in extinguishing the fire due to strong winds,” Yosef Talawo, a local forest ranger, said on Thursday.

Yosef said his office monitored the movement of the fire, but he and his fellow fire-fighters were under-resourced, under manned and, at present, unable to overcome such a difficult challenge.

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Malaysian Minister: Unfair to point finger at Malaysia over haze for companies’ wrongdoing

ZUHRIN AZAM AHMAD The Star 19 Sep 15;

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is disappointed that some parties are blaming the country for causing the haze.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said it was unfair to blame Malaysia for any alleged wrongdoing committed by its companies that were being investigated in connection with forest fires in Indonesia.

“This is just finding fault with us,” he said after chairing a meeting on the haze here yesterday.

He said some parties were holding the country partly responsible for the haze problem just because Malaysian companies were involved in plantation there.

Dr Wan Junaidi was asked to comment on a blog post that had blamed Malaysia for the haze, which is also affecting Singapore and Indonesia.

“If anyone is to be blamed, it should be the companies or individuals responsible for the companies.

“Malaysia, the Government or the ministry cannot be blamed if the companies investing in Indonesia did something wrong,” he said.

It has been reported a Malaysian-owned company is among more than 20 firms being investigated by the Indonesian authorities in connection with forest fires.

“If the company committed an offence, action should be and must be taken against it based on the law there,” Dr Wan Junaidi said.

He also announced that his meeting with his Indonesian counterpart on Sept 25 in Jakarta to discuss measures to tackle transboundary haze had been postponed.

“We are trying to get a new date. The meeting would include talks on a memorandum of understanding by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand on action to be taken if haze recurred,” he said.

M’sia, Indonesia to seek solution to haze issue
The Star 19 Sep 15;

JAKARTA: Malaysia and Indonesia are to come up with a long-term solution to the annual haze from Indonesia that affects countries in the region, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The details would be worked out by the two countries, he told reporters here.

Dr Ahmad Zahid is on a four-day working visit to Indonesia starting on Thursday.

The haze, reportedly from fires to clear forests for planting crops, has posed a perennial problem for the region.

Dr Ahmad Zahid’s visit to Indonesia is his first official trip abroad since his appointment as the Deputy Prime Minister on July 28.

He held discussions with Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and called on Indonesian Vice-President Jusof Kalla at the Vice-Presidential Palace.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said the meeting with Luhut also touched on the economy and social problems, including the legalisation of Indonesian illegal workers in Malaysia and common border issues.

“I feel the problems that have yet to be discussed and resolved can be settled with the good relations prevailing between the top leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia,” he said. — Bernama

Indonesia Admits Difficulty In Tackling Haze Problem, But Assures It Will Do Its Best
Bernama 18 Sep 15;

JAKARTA, Sept 18 (Bernama) -- Indonesia admitted its difficulty in overcoming the haze problem, but gave the assurance that it would do its best to solve it.

Its Vice President Jusof Kalla said the Indonesian government had done what it could over the haze problem, the effects of which were also felt by its neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Singapore.

"I've always said that this is an environmental problem. We have carried out efforts including deploying 20 helicopters and other aircraft to overcome the problem, but clearly it's difficult. This is because it's the dry season now."

He said this at a news conference after receiving a courtesy call from Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at his office, here, today.

Jusof said the Malaysian government itself had stated its support, that if there were Malaysian plantation companies, especially in Sumatra, involved in open burning, thus causing the haze, action could be taken against them.

"What is important is doing our best (in tackling the haze problem) but climate change has also contributed to the problem.

"As neighbouring countries, we together enjoy our world and we all bear the consequences of we do wrong (mismanaging the environment). In reality, we (Indonesia) suffer more (from the haze problem)," he said.

On another matter, Jusof said Malaysia and Indonesia as the world's biggest producer of palm oil should be united in facing competition from other edible oils such as soya and sunflower seed oil.

"Malaysia and Indonesia produce 80 per cent of the world's palm oil and we have to face competition from other sources (of edible oil), hence the need for Malaysia and Indonesia to be united in facing this challenge," he said.

On the one-hour meeting with Ahmad Zahid today, Jusof said their discussion focused on better Malaysia-Indonesia relations.

"We also discussed the economy, social issues and regional peace," he said.


Malaysia and Indonesia to come up with long-term solution to haze problem
ADRIAN LAI New Straits Times 18 Sep 15;

JAKARTA: The Malaysian and Indonesian governments will come up with long-term measures to solve the perennial haze problem afflicting both countries, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with several top-level Indonesian officials here today, Zahid said details of the long-term solution to the haze issue would be ironed out by the countries’ relevant ministries.

“I believe the various issues between Malaysia and Indonesia can be solved amicably, thanks to the healthy working relationship between the number one leaders from both countries,” he told reporters at the Vice Presidential Palace here.

Zahid subsequently met with Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla, where both leaders discussed bilateral issues for an hour.

He had earlier met with Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

During the meeting with Luhut, Zahid said, both leaders focused on socio-economic issues affecting both neighbouring countries.

“This includes the plight of Indonesians working illegally in Malaysia. Those who wish to go home can request proper documentation from the Indonesian embassy in Malaysia before doing so,” Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said.

Zahid also said any land boundary disputes between Malaysia and Indonesia would be solved amicably.

Following Zahid’s meeting with Kalla, both leaders proceeded to perform the Friday prayer at the Baiturrahman mosque located within the Vice Presidential Palace.

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Malaysia: Students in Pekan Baru, Indonesia evacuated due to haze

The Star 19 Sep 15;

SHAH ALAM: A total of 221 Malaysian students were evacuated from Pekan Baru, Indonesia, in view of the continuing haze.

The first batch of 120 students from the State Islamic University of Sultan Syarif Kasim and Pondok Pasentren Al Baidha arrived yesterday, three days after they were taken out of their learning institutions.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican said the Government decided to evacuate the students when the Air Pollutant Index touched 980 on Monday.

“It is a normal evacuation process under such circumstances.

“We are glad that it went smoothly and the Indonesian government was very cooperative,” he said after receiving the students at the Royal Malaysian Air Force airbase.

He added that there was no serious illness reported among the students.

Another batch of students arrived at midnight.

Haze: 221 students evacuated from Sumatra
L SUGANYA The Star 18 Sep 15;

SHAH ALAM: A total of 221 Malaysian students have been evacuated from Indonesia in view of the worsening haze situation in Sumatra.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican said the government decided to evacuate the students when the Air Pollution Index reading touched 980 on Sept 14.

An API of over 300 is considered hazardous.

"It is a normal evacuation process under such circumstances. We are glad that it went smoothly and the Indonesian government was very cooperative," Reezal said after receiving the students at the Royal Malaysian Air Force airbase in Subang on Friday.

Reezal said there was no report of serious illness among the students.

"As far as we know, there has not been any case of illness caused by the haze. Everyone looked to be in good spirits but I can't say for sure," he said.

The first batch of 120 students from State Islamic University of Sultan Syarif Kasim and Pondok Pasentren Al Baidha arrived on Thursday.

The ministry had also provided buses to Kuala Lumpur Sentral, TBS and Pudu Raya where the students can take buses to return to their hometowns

First Batch Of Malaysian Students Evacuated From Pekanbaru, Indonesia Arrive Friday Night
Bernama 18 Sep 15;

SHAH ALAM, Sept 18 (Bernama) -- The first batch of 116 Malaysian students and four children who were badly affected by the haze in Pekanbaru, Riau, Indonesia arrived at the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base in Subang, here, at 8.45pm.

The group was ferried in an RMAF C-130 Hercules aircraft following the the severe haze in the district with the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading in Riau reaching a dangerous level exceeding 1,000.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican said the second group of Malaysians comprising 101 students would be brought home and were expected to arrive before midnight.

However, the arrival of the second batch would much depend on the current haze situation at that place, he told reporters, here, Friday night.

"The total number of Malaysian students in Pekanbaru is 230 and we have brought home 221 people. They are the students of a maahad (religious) school and a university there.

"There are nine students who refused to return for several reasons. We will not force them but advise them to take care of their health and safety."

He said the students would only be allowed to return to Indonesia after the situation improved.

Meanwhile, Pondok Pesantren Al-Baidha', Pekan Baru student Muhammad Nabil Faiq Muhammad Fairul, 17, who has been studying there since last year, said the haze situation was very bad compared to last year's.

"However, I am grateful because so far, I have not suffered from any health problem due to the haze as I will always cover my mouth and nose if I had to do outdoor activities," he told Bernama.

Universitas Islam Negeri Sultan Syarif Kasim (UIN-Suska) student Nurul Rabiatul Adawiyah Aman, 22, said she would experience itchy eyes, each time she went out for classes.

Nurul Rabiatul Adawiyah, who is in the seventh semester of a syariah and law course, said the Malaysian government as well as the university always provided them with information on the haze situation so that she and her fellow friends were fully prepared to face any possibility.


Malaysia flies its citizens out of polluted Pekanbaru 18 Sep 15;

The Malaysian Consulate in Pekanbaru, Riau, has started flying the 120 Malaysian citizens living there out of the area to escape the smog that has blanketed the region for the last few weeks.

"It is a cautious measure given the Air Pollution Standard Index [ISPU] has already passed the hazardous level. We will pick up [the citizens] using a military aircraft based at Subang Airport in Malaysia," said Malaysian Consulate staffer Antoni on Friday as quoted by Antara news agency.

Of the 120 Malaysian citizens living in Pekanbaru, 86 are students, 10 are teachers and the rest are their partners and children.

The citizens gathered at the Malaysian Consulate in Pekanbaru prior to departure from Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru.

"We have received instructions from the Malaysian government to come home due to the high level of hazardous jerebu [smog] in Pekanbaru," said Ahmad Akifahmi who lived there as a santri (devout Muslim) at the Islamic boarding school Pondok Pesantren Al Baidha. (kes)(++++)

Wisma Putra sets up operations room to monitor haze in Indonesia
The Star 18 Sep 15;

PUTRAJAYA: The Foreign Ministry has set up an operations room to monitor the haze situation in Indonesia and to assist affected Malaysians in and around Riau Province.

The operations room can be reached at 03-8887 4570 or via email at

An operations room at the Malaysian Consulate in Pekanbaru has also been opened and can be reached at +62 761 856 166/67 or via email at

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Malaysia: No Need For Cloud Seeding With Diminishing Haze - Wan Junaidi

Bernama 18 Sep 15;

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 18 (Bernama) -- Cloud seeding is unnecessary since the haze situation in the country is improving, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said the reduced haze in the region was due to changes in the wind, shifting from the southwest to the east starting yesterday, and was expected to last until Monday.

"With the change in the wind, the air quality in several parts of the country has improved," he told reporters after chairing a special meeting on the haze at Wisma Sumber Asli here Friday.

Wan Junaidi said the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading at 8 am dropped to the moderate level (below 100) in most areas except in Manjung (Perak), Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman (Sarawak) and Seberang Jaya (Penang).

He explained that cloud seeding was only done when the API reading reaches 150 and persists for 72 hours.

"From the data (current one), we don't need cloud seeding. But it is up to the National Security Council to decide if there is a need," he said.

Cloud-seeding operations in peninsular Malaysia involving the Malaysian Meteorological Department and the Royal Malaysian Air Force were carried out from Tuesday to Thursday.

Wan Junaidi said cloud-seeding operations in Sarawak, however, could not be carried out as scheduled following dry and stable atmospheric conditions, which did not promote cloud formation.

The haze is expected to clear after the end of the Southwest Monsoon season in the middle of this month, followed by the inter-monsoon season until November. During the transition period, the country will experience wetter conditions mainly in the states in the West Coast and western Sabah.

"We may face flash floods in several parts of the country. Now, the floods will occur in the northern part of the peninsula. This will take place from now until October," he said.

On talks with his Indonesian counterpart to find a solution to the haze problem, Wan Junaidi said the meeting, scheduled for Sept 25, was again postponed at the request of the Indonesian government due to the emergency situation caused by the haze in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Wan Junaidi, meanwhile, slammed those who blamed Malaysia and called on the government to be accountable for Malaysian companies in Indonesia for starting the forest fires causing the haze in the region.

"I don't agree with this allegation. You cannot blame Malaysia or the ministry. If you want to blame, blame the company or individuals responsible (for the haze problem) but not the government or ministry," he said.

As such, he said, the Indonesian authorities must investigate and take action against the companies responsible for the burning, regardless of whether they were Malaysian or Indonesian.

Meanwhile, the government will study the effects of the haze on the country's agricultural industry, particularly plants, said Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

He said the haze situation affected sunlight, which was key for all crops. "If the haze lasts for too long and is thick, we are worried about the impact on crops. This is a matter of great concern", he told reporters after visiting the Permanent Food Production Park at the Serdang Agricultural Department Complex Friday.


Haze clears up in most areas
The Star 19 Sep 15;

PETALING JAYA: The haze cleared up a bit yesterday, with the number of areas recording unhealthy air quality dropping by half throughout the country.

Seven areas had unhealthy air pollutant index (API) readings of more than 100 as at 5pm yesterday, down from 14 at 5pm Thursday.

Penang, Kedah and Perak were the only states which recorded unhealthy API readings. The highest was at Seberang Jaya 2, Perai, at 125; followed by Universiti Sains Malaysia (119); Langkawi (117); Bakar Arang in Sungai Petani (117); Seri Manjung (109); Taiping (108); and Perai (107).

The air quality in Sarawak improved after rain overnight and a change in wind direction reduced the haze level.

The API fell to below 100 in all parts of the state by 4pm, with Kuching recording 74 and Sama­rahan 85, compared to over 200 on Thursday.

At the Kuching Waterfront, there was relief among 12 local teams competing in a qualifying race for the Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta this weekend that the situation was better.

Rower Caitlyn Ong said her team did not train on Thursday when the air quality was at a very unhealthy level.

“It was horrible. But now we’re relieved that we are able to take part in the race,” she said.

The Klang Valley also recorded moderate API readings, with Batu Muda at Kuala Lumpur at 85, Shah Alam also at 85, Cheras at 70, and Putrajaya at 69.

HAZE: Visibility of less than 5km until Sunday
New Straits Times 18 Sep 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Visibility of less than five kilometres in the waters of the Melaka Strait and waters off Pahang and Sarawak is expected to persist until Sunday, said the Meteorological Department.

It said in a statement that the situation was dangerous to ships without navigation systems.

The low visibility prevails in the waters off Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor and Pahang, as well as in Kuching, Rejang, Mukah, Bintulu and Miri in Sarawak, it added. – BERNAMA

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Malaysia: 30 per cent increase in acute respiratory infections in state

Lim How Pim The Borneo Post 18 Sep 15;

KOTA SAMARAHAN: Sarawak saw a 30 per cent increase in acute respiratory infection (ARI) cases last week due to transboundary haze.

Health Department state director Datu Dr Zulkifli Jantan said the data was gathered by all sentinel clinics throughout the state.

“We do not have the exact figure, but we have sentinel clinics that gather ARI weekly. For last week, from September 7 to 13, we registered an increase of 30 per cent for ARI. These are non-admission cases,” he told journalists after opening the second Sarawak Pressure Injury Update 2015 yesterday.

Dr Zulkifli pointed out that the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings for Kuching and Samarahan (at the time of interview) had exceeded 200.

“It is at very unhealthy level now. The advice from us is the same as what we have given. First, you must avoid going outdoors and if you cannot help but must go outdoors, use a mask and this is especially for people who have respiratory problems or are asthmatic or with infections or chronic lung diseases,” he said.

He also called for a reduction of physical and sports-related activities.

“If you go jogging or brisk-walking, you inhale more haze.”

He added that schools, particularly in Samarahan and Kuching, were asked to close yesterday due to the high API reading and should remain so until the API readings drop.

“The instruction for schools closure does not come from us; it comes from the Education Department or the Security Council.

“If I’m not mistaken, it is school holidays next week. So the schools can close early for the holidays,” he said.

According to the state government almanac, the second mid-term school break is from this Saturday until Sept 27.

Haze takes its toll on Sarawakians
Geryl Ogilvy Ruekeith The Borneo Post 18 Sep 15;

KUCHING: The air quality in the Kuching, Serian and Samarahan divisions have reached a very unhealthy level yesterday with Air Pollutant Index (API) rating exceeding 200, prompting the state Education Department to close all schooling sessions.

A total of 398 primary schools and 65 secondary schools in the districts of Kuching, Padawan, Bau, Lundu, Kota Samarahan, Serian and Simunjan were ordered to close, affecting 185,000 students.

The Education Ministry announced in a statement yesterday that all schools in haze-hit areas which were forced to close had to remain closed today.

The API index was highest at 10am with a reading of 209 while Kota Samarahan hit a 210 rating an hour later. By 5pm, the ratings had decreased to 189 and 196 respectively to remain at an unhealthy level.

State Disaster Relief Committee chairman, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu explained that the Education Ministry’s standard operating procedure (SOP) required schools to be closed once the API exceeds 200. Schools must not carry out activities outside the classrooms when the rating was more than 150.

“We will continue to monitor the situation these next two days because the wind direction from south westerly will continue to bring in haze, arising from the hotspots in Kalimantan, right to Kuching, Serian and Samarahan. The wind pattern is not expected to change drastically,” Jabu told a press conference held at his office in Wisma Bapa Malaysia here yesterday.

Also present at the media conference preceded by an earlier briefing chaired by the Deputy Chief Minister were state National Security Council (NSC) assistant secretary Shalihin Annuar and Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) controller Peter Sawal.

When asked on the cloud seeding operation, Jabu said only one mission had been carried out since the operation started on Sept 15 as poor visibility and insufficient availability of clouds had affected operations.

NSC and the Meteorological Department are monitoring the situation and that cloud seeding would be carried out as soon as possible subjected to approval from KIA’s Air Traffic Control, he added.

Jabu also mentioned that as of yesterday, there were no hotspots detected in Sarawak.

Meanwhile as at 3pm, the haze had led to the cancellation of nine Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) flights in the Kuching-Tanjung Manis, Kuala Lumpur-Kuching, Kuching-Pontianak and Kuching-Mulu sectors. A total of 110 passengers were affected.

Kuching International Aiport (KIA) senior manager Mohd Nadzim Hashim said yesterday 18 flights were delayed, comprising seven departures and 11 arrivals, and affecting 2,478 passengers of MAB, Air Asia, Expressair and Malindo Air.

He advised all passengers to check the flying schedules with their respective airlines before heading to the airport.

Mohd Nadzim added that visibility yesterday was about 1,300 metres.

NREB has put on hold all open burning applications since August and that officers will continue to go to the ground to detect illegal open burning activities.

The Health Department is also distributing face masks to those working outdoors in high risk areas.

Meanwhile, Jakarta Globe reported Indonesian police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti as saying that the number of palm oil and logging companies charged with setting forest fires that have generated toxic haze spreading as far as Singapore and Malaysia had risen to seven.

Indonesian police have received 148 reports of fires being set deliberately in Sumatra and Kalimantan, and currently investigating 27 companies.

Investigators have charged seven of the companies for slash-and-burn clearing of peat forests – three in South Sumatra province, one in Riau province and three in Central Kalimantan – under the 2014 Plantations Law and the 2009 Environmental Protection and Management Law.

The API rating is measured as Good for reading between 0-50, Moderate (51-100), Unhealthy (101-200), Very Unhealthy (201-300) and Hazardous if it is above 300.

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Malaysia: Speed up Tun Mustapha Marine Park gazetting, urges WWF

The Star 19 Sep 15;

KOTA KINABALU: The proposed one-million hectare Tun Mustapha Marine Park (TMP) in northern Sabah should be gazetted soon because bad fishing practices could lead to the disappearance of popular seafood like groupers and snappers, said WWF Malaysia.

Its executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said quick gazetting of the proposed park would help Malaysia meet global ocean protection targets.

“We are working with the state government, businesses and communities to help protect almost one million hectares of ocean in the proposed TMP,” he said.

“This globally significant park will also protect the livelihood of more than 80,000 people living on the coast and over 50 islands in northern Sabah and beyond,” he said in a statement.

Dr Sharma said WWF Malaysia had spent nearly half a century in its mission to protect and preserve the country’s marine life.

Its “Living Blue Planet Report” showed that the destruction of the world’s coral reefs had reduced marine populations by half, he said.

Some fish species had declined by almost 75%, which had impacted the RM8.79bil fishing industry and deprived people of an essential protein supply.

He said Malaysia’s best-loved seafood such as groupers and snappers might soon disappear unless sustainable ocean management practices were implemented.

“Just 10% of commercially valuable fish remains available for consumption after being largely fished-out in the last 50 years.

“If business continues as usual in our fishing practices, we will experience an irreversible collapse in our fishing industry,” Dr Sharma cautioned.

He added that over-fishing, destructive fishing methods like fish bombing, pollution and unsustainable coastal development had led to significant declines in coral reefs, which are integral to the survival and health of marine life.

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