Indonesia deploys aircraft, soldiers to fight forest fire

Jakarta, Sep 28 (IANS) The Indonesian government on Monday launched a large air operation, involving helicopters, planes and thousands of soldiers, to fight forest fire that caused haze in Singapore and Malaysia.

As many as 21 helicopters and planes capable of carrying water or creating artificial rains have been dispatched to Sumatra and Borneo islands, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the national disaster management agency.

Soldiers, police and officials from the disaster agency have been dispatched to the operation, Xinhua news agency quoted Sutopo as saying.

“This is the biggest operation in fighting to extinguish forest fire since 2014,” Sutopo said.

However, dry weather, wide territory and shortage of water have hampered the operation, he added.

To enforce law, the police also deployed more than 750 investigators to the scene.

The haze has threatened people’s health as the air quality in the areas has worsened, Sutopo said.

Separately, Indonesian Minister for Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya said that as many as 266 firms has been under investigation for their involvement in the forest fires and stern actions would be taken against them, including suspension of business permit.

The government has frozen and revoked four plantation firms over the forest fires.

President Joko Widodo has ordered to conduct operation for re- wetting of peat land to stop the fires into the soil.

Companies would be required to build ponds at peat land areas to supply water needed when fires occur.

Indonesia has been battered by such forest fires since the 1990s, as the ensuing haze shrouded neighbouring ASEAN countries and caused massive economic losses.

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