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  Channel NewsAsia 27 Aug 06
Indonesian minister urges local governments to battle haze

JAKARTA : Indonesian Forestry Minister Malem Sambet Kaban has urged local administrative heads to play a more active role in preventing land clearing by fire, blamed for the thick smoking haze that has blanketed the region.

Ground and forest fires on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo have resulted in the choking haze spreading as far as Malaysia and Singapore, prompting calls for Jakarta to halt all sources of the smoke.

The fires are an annual phenomena that occur as farmers and landowners clear land for the upcoming planting season by burning. The practice is outlawed in Indonesia but enforcement has been poor.

Speaking on radio, Kaban said the fires could be curbed substantially if local government responds early and realizes the smoke is not just a local problem but one that hurts other countries as well.

"It looks like the local governments have not been responsive enough." He said law enforcement should continue with the arrests of those responsible for the fires, but parallel efforts should also be made to curb the use of clearing by fire.

"The aim should be how this tradition of using fire to clear land can be stopped," Kaban said. He said efforts to educate people against ground clearing by fire, should be spearheaded by the heads of local governments who should continuously maintain touch with their people.

"Therefore there should be a move to build this awareness among the heads of local governments, Kaban said.

Satellite imaging on Saturday showed at least 106 hot spots in Sumatra, with high a concentration in the provinces of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra. But rains in Jambi, where the haze was thickest, had left the sky clear on Sunday, the meteorology office there said.

A total of 461 hotspots were also detected across Borneo on the same day. - AFP

Related articles on Singapore: Haze
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