Environmental News Archive

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Indonesia Aims To Cut Forest Fires By Half This Year

1 March 2007
By Sujadi Siswo

BRUNEI - The Indonesian government said yesterday it hoped to reduce the
annual incidence of forest fires by half this year.

Mr Rahmat Witoelar, the Indonesian Environment Minister, said that his
country has come out with a multi-million dollar plan to tackle the fires.

However, he added that Indonesia could do with more assistance to tackle
the menace.

"I think it is our primary responsibility that Indonesia has funding of
its own," he told Channel NewsAsia. "But we welcome other sources of
funding, whether it is international or bilateral to supplement what we

He was speaking on the first day of a two-day Association of South-east
Asian Nations environment ministers meeting here.

Indonesia is confident that the comprehensive plan, which includes
reaching out to thousands of farming communities in Sumatra and
Kalimantan, will be able to reduce the forest fires by half, he said.

Singapore will be assisting the Indonesian government by working in Jambi,
Sumatra, to help local authorities tackle the problem at its roots.

Said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Singapore's Water Resources and Environment
Minister: "If we are able to develop the plan and get local ownership
quickly, that means building capacity at the local area, over the long
run we are confident we can reduce the problem.

"In the short term, I think we have to be very realistic, there are gaps
especially in terms of capacity. Funding is a major concern."

Malaysia is considering a similar approach.

The haze was particularly bad last year, prompting the five affected
nations - Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand - to hold a
sub-regional meeting to find a solution.

The choking haze, the result of "slash and burn" activities by farmers and
others in Sumatra and Kalimantan, usually envelops the region around the
third quarter of the year.

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