Indonesia And Its Neighbors Breathe Smog From Forest Fires

Smog in Indonesia
A mosque and a church are pictured as smog covers the city due to the forest fire in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia, September 10, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken September 10, 2019. (Photo: Antara Foto/FB Anggoro via REUTERS)

Forest fires have been blowing up in the Indonesian regions of Kalimantan and Sumatra after news of infernos in the Amazon forests rocked the world. Thick flocks of smog reached neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.

According to CNN, over 2.3 million hectares of Indonesian forest were affected by the fires that have been brewing for the past few weeks. The government has deployed over 9,000 personnel to stop the flames from spreading further.

In Malaysia, the government distributed an estimated 500,000 face masks to residents after the smog and smoke spread across the country. Singaporeans also continue to breathe in a haze as environmentalists raise concerns about the air quality.

As with the alleged cause of the blazing Amazon fires, the infernos in Indonesia were reportedly caused by farmers. The same techniques used by Brazilian farmers were allegedly used in the country.

Environmentalists warned of the health hazards that pollutants in unhealthy air levels bring. They said the microscopic particles are even more dangerous to the health since these elements could penetrate the bloodstream when they pass through the lungs.

Tuesday recorded shockingly high levels of unhealthy hair in Singapore and Malaysia with the countries hitting peaks of 151 and 101 respectively. Compared to Beijing's 50 and London's 24, the air pollution levels in Indonesia's neighboring countries alarmed authorities.

The two affected countries have called on the Indonesian government to do something about the ongoing blazes. Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) said there were around 1,286 fires in the Kalimantan and Sumatra regions as of Tuesday.

On Thursday, The Guardian reported that Indonesia clapped back at critics who blamed the government for a lack of action in resolving the fires. Indonesian environment minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said the smog affective Malaysia is from its Sarawak region.

Siti Nurbaya further argued that the Indonesian government "has been systematically" working to resolve the problem. He said not all of the smog affecting neighboring nations originated from Indonesia.

As if in response to Indonesia's comments, Malaysian environment, and climate change minister Yeo Bee Yin said the numbers should speak for themselves. He further commented that Siti Nurbaya should "not be in denial."

Malaysia's sentiments came after the government had to shut down over 400 schools over the past week in the eastern state of Sarawak as smog continued to wrap the region. Indonesia said its Malaysian counterpart also has a part in the smog that threatens air quality and health of the citizens.

Malaysia's ambassador to Indonesia, Zainal Abidin Bakar, tried to intervene in the ongoing spats between the two countries' ministers. He said Malaysia didn't want to join blame games and is willing to offer support as Indonesia battles the fires.

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