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Lee Seok Hwai
Thursday, Sep 25, 2014

Asia

Indonesia to map forest fires

The Straits Times | Lee Seok Hwai | Thursday, Sep 25, 2014

Gen (Ret) Luhut Pandjaitan also said Indonesia is keen to work with countries in the region to fight the threat posed by ISIS.

Indonesia plans to map forest fires in Sumatra which cause severe haze in the region so as to identify the sources and nip them in the bud, a senior adviser to President-elect Joko Widodo has said.

The plan, if implemented, will be a fillip to the region's fight against the recurring pollution. It also marks another step by Indonesia towards that end, following the country's ratification of a 12-year-old ASEAN anti-haze pact last week.

General (Ret) Luhut Pandjaitan also said Indonesia was keen to work with countries in the region to fight the security threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group. He called the group one of three immediate challenges facing Mr Joko, 53, who won the presidential election on July 9 and will be sworn in on Oct 20.

Gen Luhut, a retired veteran of Indonesia's Special Forces Command (Kopassus), who has served as trade minister as well as ambassador to Singapore from 1999 to 2000, said the haze is one issue Mr Joko will deal with during his term.

"This is one issue he's going to tackle in the near future... We'll have to at least minimise it," Gen Luhut told reporters yesterday after delivering a public lecture organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies on challenges and opportunities facing the Joko government.

Asked what concrete measures the new administration will take, he said: "We have a plan, to have one map that can identify easily the source of this pollution.

"We can (then) see easily, identify who the owner of this land is, and maybe we can call him to ask him why (he) did it."

To fight the haze, which brought off-the-charts pollution to Singapore and Malaysia last year, the authorities need to be able to pinpoint land cleared by fires during the June-to-October dry season, before taking its owner to task.

Singapore passed a law last month that sanctions fines against companies for fires on their land if the resultant haze affects the Republic.

But many of the available maps from public records of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry are incomplete and outdated.

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