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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
Indonesia fires shroud region in smoke
A ferry cruises from the Malaysian mainland to Penang island, with a view of the haze in the background
Indonesia has been urged to deal with the problem
After choking its neighbours with smoke, Indonesia is now going to host a four-nation meeting on 19 July, to seek solutions for forest fires raging on Sumatra and Borneo and the smoke that is driving up pollution in the region.

Singapore has officially complained to Jakarta over the haze, after its pollution index hit the highest level this year, a Singapore Government statement said.

We are confident that it is not beyond the capacity of the Indonesian authorities to exercise greater vigilance and impose strict punishment on the culprits

New Straits Times
Singapore Environment Minister Lee Yock Suan has written his Indonesian counterpart to "convey our concern over the smoke haze situation", the statement said.

Attending the meeting in Jakarta next Thursday will be environment officials from Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia.

Singapore optimistic

"Our sense is that there is a commitment on their [Indonesia's] part to actually deal with the fires," said Loh Ah Tuan, a director at Singapore's Ministry of the Environment.

Singapore's pollution level remained relatively low until Thursday, thanks to favourable winds that took the smoke from the Sumatra blazes elsewhere.

A man wearing a mask to protect against the pollution on a backdrop of the famous Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Areas of Malaysia are shrouded in smoke
It has not been as hard hit as parts of Thailand and Malaysia this week.

A Singapore meteorological official, Wong Teo Suan, told Reuters: "The situation will not change very much in what we're experiencing in Singapore - a slight to moderate haze - and I don't think it will deteriorate."

Malaysia hard hit

Central Kuala Lumpur in neighbouring Malaysia, however, is shrouded in smoke, obscuring the hills that ring the capital.

Malaysia's New Straits Times newspaper urged Indonesia to confront the issue of farmers starting fires deliberately to clear land for cultivation.

"We are confident that it is not beyond the capacity of the Indonesian authorities to exercise greater vigilance and impose strict punishment on the culprits," the newspaper said in an editorial on Friday.

In 1997, the region suffered a suffocating haze caused by Indonesia fires.

Indonesia has asked Australian fire-fighters to help put out the fires in Sumatra and Borneo.

See also:

13 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia gets tough over fires
10 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's fires: Who's to blame ?
10 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Sumatra's forests ablaze
10 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Indonesia: A smoky Eden
03 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Forest fires rage in Sumatra
08 Apr 98 | Haze 98
Battle to break the blaze
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