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SE Asia Holds Its Breath As Fires Return To Indonesia - Reuters

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 12:50 PM
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SE Asia Holds Its Breath As Fires Return To Indonesia - Reuters
JAKARTA - Choking smoke from Indonesian forest fires marks the return of an annual hazard across the region which authorities appear powerless to stop and that only one thing can be relied upon to contain -- rain.

The fires are a regular occurrence during the dry season in areas such as Sumatra and Borneo, but the situation has worsened in the last decade, with timber and plantation firms often blamed for deliberately starting fires to clear land. Indonesian authorities have vowed to take action against anyone setting fires and taken a series of other measures. But the burning and the billowing yellow smoke persist and, officials concede, the seasonal fires could go on for years.

"Whenever there is land clearing, there is a possibility of sustained fires," said Hermono Sigit, deputy assistant for forest and land destruction at the Environment Ministry. The worst smog hit in 1997-98, when drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon led to major Indonesian fires. The smoke spread to Singapore, Malaysia and south Thailand and cost US$9 billion in damage to tourism, transport and farming.

Nearly 10 years on, the acrid odour of the smoke, or haze as it's known in the region, could be smelt this week in Singapore, while the landmark KL Tower in the Malaysian capital was also shrouded in smoke this week before recent rain.

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