Indonesia– Is our haze bothering you? Sorry, but its the wind.
Speaking at a dialogue with business leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla was confronted with a question on his countrys perennial haze-forest fire smoke, which has been affecting neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, and has even reached parts of Thailand and the Philippines.
One thing that we cannot control, its the wind. Im so sorry Malaysia and Singapore to say that, because we cannot control the wind, said Kalla, who filled in for Indonesia President Joko Widodo at regional leaders meet.
We dont want the haze going everywhere, but the wind we cannot control. Thats why if [the haze] comes to others, it happens not because we want to make the haze go to our neighbor, [but] because the wind does that, said the official, drawing some laughter from his audience.
The haze, which in recent months blanketed parts of Southeast Asia, comes from lingering forest fires in Indonesias Riau province in East Sumatra and parts of South Sumatra and Kalimantan, according to earlier reports.
Last month, the haze affected parts of Cebu and was even suspected to have reached Metro Manila. The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration warned that the haze could become among the worst ever, aggravated by the El Niño phenomenon.
Kalla also cited the weather phenomenon in his response, saying the warmth brought on by El Niño had worsened forest fires in his country.
He recalled how Indonesias forest land, one of the biggest in the world, became denuded because of foreign intervention in the first place, with swift deforestation eating up what used to be at least 150 million hectares of forest land in the 1950s. Nearly half had been lost in the last five decades.
In the 60s and the 70s, many foreign companies taught our people how to log. So that destroyed our forests in Kalimantan and Sumatra, said Kalla.
He called on other nations to support Indonesias efforts towards reforestation, calling his countrys forest land the land of the world.
This year, we have a big project to restore all forests. We need international cooperation because this tropical forest in Indonesia is the land of the world. This is our land. Not just Indonesias. But the world included, Kalla said.
He expressed hopes that the climate conference in Paris in early December would yield more concrete commitments to delay the disastrous effects of global warming.
Thats why we hope that the Paris conference [on the climate] will have better results. We should have togetherness to make a good environment for the world, =Kalla said.
Next year, the haze might be still there, but well be reducing this. And thank you for the coop in the region. We cannot do it alone with an El Niño like this, he said.