Indonesia: Month needed to put out fires
Indonesia will take another month to bring smouldering forest fires under control, the national disaster management agency said yesterday.
"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.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam yesterday called Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to express concern about the ongoing haze in Singapore.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Mr Shanmugam told his Indonesian counterpart that "the recurrence of the haze had both immediate and long-term health impact on Singaporeans and others in the region".
Mr Shanmugam welcomed the steps taken by the Indonesian government to address the haze issue, including its investigations into companies suspected to be causing fires.
He asked for strong action to be taken against these companies, and urged the Indonesian authorities to share the names of these companies with Singapore so that punitive action can be taken against them.
Indonesia has said that it was investigating about 100 companies, including an unnamed Malaysian firm, in the latest crackdown to tackle the smog, which has been worsened by a prolonged dry season. The rainy season usually begins in November.
Next week, 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.
Meanwhile, Malaysia 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.
In Singapore, air quality has improved from earlier in the week and the Pollutant Standards Index remained mostly in the moderate range yesterday, with a slight deterioration in the evening.