One of Indonesia’s immediate response to the haze situation was to set up a regional workshop to tackle the haze. Ministers and bureaucrats around the ASEAN region are scheduled to meet on November 2 in Indonesia.
This initiative was welcomed by its neighbouring countries. The Singapore environment minister also revealed another welcomed Indonesian response to the regional problem. He mentioned that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that Indonesia is prepared to ratify an ASEAN agreement to prevent the haze. This was an important measure given that regional financial assistance would have been delayed if the treaty was not signed.
"I hope the Indonesian Parliament, together with Indonesian legislators, will move the ratification as soon as possible. The haze agreement is an important piece of framework to allow us to tackle this. The sooner they rectify it, the better for us, in order to move forward using the haze funds and other provisions within the agreement," says Dr Yaacob.
However, while the Presidential office seemed to support the ratification, rumblings from some Parliamentarians suggested that the ratification may yet be delayed.
In terms of short-term actions, Indonesia has loaned two Russian amphibious firefighting planes to fight the fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra. Singapore hopes thatIndonesia would add on to such efforts by accepting the Singapore Armed Forces’ own offer of a C130 transport plane for cloud seeding and the deployment of its Civil Defence fire fighters.
In many of the affected areas, the haze was so thick that airports had to be closed, and flights cancelled. Many Indonesians themselves are fed-up and want Jakartato implement emergency laws and revoke permits from companies found to be using slash-and-burn methods. Meanwhile, Jakarta has arrested 300 people and filed lawsuits against six companies this year in an effort to stop the haze.
Indonesia has been slow in responding to the hazards of the haze. Only intense external and domestic measures recently spurred the government to take some urgent responses. Within Indonesia, regional and local officials have spoken out. "The haze has become dangerous to people's health," said Governor Zulkifli Nurdin of Jambi province, who asked Jakarta to increase its efforts to stop the blazes with cloud seeding and airborne firefighters. Local officials also praised the initiatives taken by environmental ministers from Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore to pressure Indonesia to ratify the haze agreement.
Regional workshop to tackle haze to be held in Indonesia on Nov 2 (Channelnewsasia, 24 October 2006)
Indonesia holiday travel hit as haze shuts airports (Reuters, 23 Oct 2006)
Haze closes several Indonesian airports (ABCnews, 18 Oct 2006)
Indonesian brush fires cause flight cancelations, health warnings (IHT, 16 Oct 2006)