Indonesia pledges to cut haze-causing forest fires by half
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Seeking to stave off the forest fires that have blanketed five Southeast Asian countries with choking haze for the past two years, Indonesian environmental and forestry officials said yesterday they would be able to reduce the number of hot spots this year by more than half.
Meeting in Jambi, Sumatra, cabinet ministers from Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand heard what Indonesia plans to do this year to combat the illegal forest fires, which start each year during the August-November dry season.
"We are targeting a drop of about 50 percent in forest fires but we are entering the dry season between July and August so we have to increase our alertness," Indonesian deputy environment minister Masnellyarti Hilman was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. "We explained the efforts that we've taken to prevent a repeat of the choking haze...and they praised our efforts," he said.
A statement issued by the ministers after the meeting said Indonesia's efforts would reduce the number of hot spots by 58 percent from the previous year.
Caused by slash-and-burn cultivation on palm oil and timber plantations on Borneo and Sumatra, the haze has covered parts of the affected countries for the past two years. It was first problematic in 1997, due to the El Niño weather pattern.