- The Indonesian government continues to work on enacting regulations to address the underlying causes of the annual fires.
- Vice president Jusuf Kalla said Indonesia would target 2-3 million hectares of peatland restoration by 2020.
- The government intends to form an agency for peatland restoration but has yet to decide on the specifics.
Singapore’s National Environment Agency called the “end of the dry season” on Sunday and said it would cease publishing daily health advisories related to toxic haze. The city state said it did not expect further air pollution to reach its airspace this year.
“There has been an increase in rain showers over the past two weeks, signaling the end of the traditional dry season in the region,” the NEA said on Monday. “For the rest of the year, the likelihood of transboundary haze affecting Singapore is low, although there may still be brief periods of slight haze if winds are unfavorable.”
In Johor Baru, a Malaysian city on the border with Singapore, heavy rain on Monday caused flash floods to submerge cars in the street and flood basements in the city of almost 2 million.
In Jakarta, the Indonesian government continues to work on enacting regulations to address the underlying causes of the annual fires. Government edicts released this month by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration pledged to restore peat swamps, ban future development on peat and act to block canals used by companies to drain water from marshy land.
Vice president Jusuf Kalla said Indonesia would target 2-3 million hectares of peatland restoration by 2020.
“We don’t guarantee an end to the forest fires, but they will be reduced,” Kalla said during a meeting with the United Nations Development Project and the government of Norway.
The vice president specified three mistakes in Indonesian government policy dating back 50 years. Too many concessions were handed out to foreign companies in the 1970s to exploit the archipelago’s forests, the vice president said. A poorly conceived Suharto-era project to develop a million hectares of peatland for rice farming as well as a longstanding openness to licensing peatland development for oil palm cultivation have laid the ground for the devastating fires, Kalla added.
Environment minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said the government had yet to decide on how to form a state agency responsible for peatland restoration.
“It could be [formed under the direct authority] of the presidency or the coordinating minister; we don’t know yet,” she said.
Kalla said international cooperation would be crucial to the success of the plan given the capital expenditure required to block peatland canals and restore land, a vast logistical challenge.
“We are waiting for the plan to be completed but we are always ready to provide support,” said Norwegian ambassador to Jakarta Stig Traavik.
Amzulian Rifai, a law professor at the University of Sriwijaya, called on the government to provide greater compensation to the millions of affected residents.
“This is a human tragedy,” he told Mongabay. “From health to disruption of work and education as well as other activities – it would be normal for the government to award compensation to the community.”
Social affairs minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said her office had coordinated with welfare departments in the seven worst-affected provinces to carry out health checks. The minister said she was particularly concerned about ensuring children in early years education attend a medical check-up.
Riau Pos reports the head of the province’s forestry agency saying policies outlined in a presidential instruction signed by Jokowi this month would be included in a provincial government regulation on managing fires.
A meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Kuala Lumpur this week will discuss progress on the haze.