Jakarta – Forest fires in some parts of Indonesia have declined and no haze had been detected moving to Malaysia, Environment and Forestry Minister said on Friday, a day after its neighbor urged Jakarta to take action as air quality worsened.
Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Malaysia's minister of natural resources, environment and climate change, in an interview with Reuters said he had asked his Indonesian counterpart to address the haze, as air quality worsens, saying haze should not be a new normal.
"I do not know what basis that Malaysia used in giving those statements. We are working not based upon Malaysia's request," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar told Reuters.
Fires that sent haze billowing across the region in 2015 and 2019 burned millions of hectares of land and produced record-breaking emissions, according to scientists.
Almost every dry season, smoke from fires to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations inIndonesia blankets much of the region, bringing health risks and concerning tourist operators and airlines.
Siti Nurbaya also said the number of forest fires in some parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan had declined and the government continues to put out the blazes.
Her remarks came as Southeast Asian agriculture and forestry ministers agreed to take collective action to minimise and eventually eliminate crop burning in the region.
In a statement after a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Malaysia, members recognised "the adverse environmental and health impacts of crop burning practices," and committed to collectively reduce and phase it out.
A prolonged dry season has caused higher risks of wildfires on Indonesia's major islands, stoking fears of repeat haze-belching forest fires that have also affected neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore in recent years.
The city of Jambi on the western island of Sumatra, which has a population of around 600,000, has forced students to online learning from home over the toxic smog.
The school ban was from Monday to Wednesday, but would be extended if the haze continued.
Authorities said the haze was caused by fires elsewhere, without specifying. Peatland fires have been raging in neighbouring Palembang province for more than a month.