Forest fires burning in Indonesia have released 360 million tonnes of carbon dioxide since August, said Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Thursday (Sep 26).
“We now are clear that these forest fires have a major impact on climate,” Mr Masagos wrote in a Facebook post. “The loss of carbon sinks in the burning of peat is irreversible.”
Forest fires in Indonesia, blamed on slash-and-burn techniques by farmers to clear agricultural land, have caused transboundary haze in Singapore and Malaysia in recent weeks.
Calling the transboundary haze a “perennial scourge for Southeast Asia”, Mr Masagos said there is a need for stronger action to prevent it from recurring.
“Last week, Singapore had conveyed our concerns over the escalation of hotspots to the Indonesian government via diplomatic note, sought their assistance to enhance measures on the ground and also offered our assistance,” he said.
“Singapore will not tolerate the actions of errant companies that jeopardise the health and lives of people here and in other countries, and which set back our efforts to fight climate change.”
In 2014, Singapore passed the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act to go after companies that started fires or let their concessions burn, contributing to the haze.
Malaysia is also considering similar legislation, under which companies found to be responsible for haze may be penalized upon entering the country’s market.
Hazy conditions eased throughout the region in the past two days, after rain in parts of Indonesia’s Sumatra and Kalimantan brought down the number of hotspots by 40 per cent.
It added that thundery showers are forecast for the next few days.