The worsening smog across northern Indonesia, neighbouring Singapore and parts of Malaysia forced some schools to close and airlines to delay flights this week, while Indonesia ordered a crackdown on lighting fires to clear forested land.
The smog has become so bad that Jakarta has declared a state of emergency in Riau province, the Ground Zero.
BNPB also reported that the haze in Sumatra was no longer reaching the Malacca Strait or neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.
“What is important is doing our best (in tackling the haze problem) but climate change has also contributed to the problem”.
Plantation companies, some of which are listed in Singapore, and smallholder farmers often get blamed for using slash-and-burn practices to clear land for palm oil and agriculture.
Singapore’s environment minister said late on Monday that Indonesia had agreed to share names of companies causing the fires once the information had been verified. “And then at the end, those burned areas are proposed as the expansion of their plantation”.
In order to alleviate the recent haze problem, Singapore has offered to assist Indonesia to put off the forest fire. During the same episode, the Singaporean government estimated they lost $9 billion through increased healthcare costs and disruptions to air travel and business.
The national impetus includes deploying more police to help with firefighting and handling probes against culprits, and increasing cloud-seeding sorties to douse the blazes, especially those burning on dry peatlands. But this year, air quality has hit hazardous levels, with tens of thousands contracting respiratory illnesses.
One Greenpeace media campaigner in Indonesia has described how he left his village with his daughter and pregnant wife to try to escape the haze.
“I’ve always said that this is an environmental problem”.
The three-day Singapore Grand Prix, which started on Friday, was also unaffected. And more than 1.5 million students have been affected by school closures in Malaysia and Indonesia. Singapore now has face masks ready to hand out to Grand Prix participants and spectators on the weekend.
Indonesian police arrested seven corporate executives on Wednesday in connection with illegal forest fires across Sumatra and Kalimantan, as part of a wide-ranging effort to stop the haze crisis.
They could face up to 15 years in jail and heavy fines if found guilty of breaking Indonesian laws that ban starting forest fires. Indonesian police are investigating the problem, and are presently looking into 168 individual cases among seven suspected corporations.