Friday, April 25, 2014   

Jakarta points finger at Singaporean palm oil ventures for causing smog
(06-18 11:36)

Smog from forest fires in Indonesia stayed at unhealthy levels in Singapore today as the two neighbors blamed each other for the seasonal problem.
Singapore's Pollutant Standards Index stood at 115 as offices opened – still above the “unhealthy’’ threshold of 100 but down from the peak reached late yesterday when the entire island was shrouded by a smoky haze.
Most commuters walked in bright sunshine without protective masks despite the lingering smell of burnt wood in the business district.
The Ministry of Manpower has urged employers to issue masks to staff with heart and respiratory problems, and those working outdoors. The elderly and children have also been told to reduce strenuous outdoor activity.
The pollutant index soared to a peak of 155 late yesterday, the highest since Southeast Asia's prolonged haze crisis in 1997-1998, but eased off overnight.
Yesterday, Singapore urged Indonesia to take “urgent measures'' to tackle its forest fires, but the Indonesian forestry ministry said firefighters were already tackling the blazes.
A ministry official, Hadi Daryanto, also attempted to shift some of the blame onto Malaysia and Singapore, saying their palm oil companies that had invested in Indonesia were also responsible.
“The slash-and-burn technique being used is the cheapest land-clearing method and it is not only used by local farmers, but also employees of palm oil investors including Singaporean and Malaysian companies,'' he said.
“We hope the governments of Malaysia and Singapore will tell their investors to adopt proper measures so we can solve this problem together.''
But Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's minister for environment and water resources, kept up the pressure on Indonesia.
In remarks carried today by Singapore media, he said “commercial interests in Indonesia have been allowed to override environmental concerns.''


   
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