'Non-stop work to tackle haze'

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Indonesia is "entering a crucial season of land and forest fires" and the government "is not sitting still and is working non-stop" to tackle it, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said in Jakarta yesterday.

Indonesia "respects the complaints from neighbouring countries" about the haze caused by the fires, she said. But the government is tackling the issue "not because of pressure by other countries," The Straits Times quoted her as saying in a statement.

"All outsiders should withhold unnecessary comments but see the efforts which are systematically and seriously being carried out by the government of Indonesia," she said.

Patrol teams on the ground and strong law enforcement against those starting the fires have helped to keep the number of hotspots across the country low, from 8,247 between January and August last year to 2,356 over the same period this year, she was quoted as saying.

Thirty companies have been slapped with "administrative sanctions" over last year's fires, including strong warnings and suspension of licences.

There are also civil suits against some companies, she said, without naming the companies.

Fires are often started by small-holder farmers as a cheap way to clear land or illegally by companies to prepare the land to plant crops.

Satellites detected 32 hotspots in Riau yesterday, two more than on Saturday.


But air quality in Singapore is expected to improve further today, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was in the moderate to unhealthy range yesterday morning, but dropped to the moderate range from 10am.

"For tomorrow, the prevailing winds are forecast to strengthen and blow from the south or southeast, and a further improvement in the air quality can be expected," NEA said.

The PSI for the next 24 hours is forecast to be in the moderate range, NEA said in its advisory yesterday evening.