JAKARTA, Aug 6, 2019, Bloomberg. With a surge in forest fires in Indonesia threatening a repeat of the deadly haze that blanketed much of Southeast Asia in 2015, President Joko Widodo said officials failing to tackle the menace will be fired, reported The Straits Times.
Jokowi, as Mr Widodo is commonly known, said he’s alarmed by the increase in the number of so-called hotspots this year though it’s significantly down from 2015 when a total of 2.6 million hectares of land was affected, costing the country 221 trillion rupiah (S$21.49 billion) in economic losses.
The military, police, disaster mitigation agency and others should focus on prevention and early detection of fires to curb them, he told a meeting in Jakarta on Tuesday (Aug 6).
“We’ll be ashamed of facing other countries if we cannot solve the smoke problem,” Mr Widodo said.
“I have told the military and police chiefs to fire whoever fails to tackle the forest and land fires. Don’t underestimate hot spots, just extinguish them, don’t wait until they get big.”
The raging hotspots in central and western parts of the archipelago have already prompted neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia to warn of higher risks of haze this year as much of Asia reels from an unusually long dry spell.
Stinging smoke from illegal burning to clear land for palm oil and paper plantations engulfed Singapore, parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand for over a month in 2015.