Jun 24 Environment ministers meet

PM Lee has written a letter urging Indonesian officials to act swiftly and decisively to combat the haze, and offers Singapore's assistance to help put out the fires in Sumatra and track down errant companies contributing to the air pollution.

SINGAPORE - Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan flew to Jakarta to meet his Indonesian counterpart, Professor Balthasar Kambuaya, yesterday.

While there, he handed over a letter from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In his letter, PM Lee noted that he and President Yudhoyono had agreed to cooperate to combat transboundary pollution at their Leaders' Retreat in Singapore in April.

He conveyed his grave concern at the impact the severe haze was having on Singapore and Singaporeans, and urged Indonesia to take timely and concrete actions to solve the problem.

Offer of help

PM Lee offered Singapore's help to put out the fires in Sumatra, including an aircraft for cloud seeding, and satellite pictures and hot spot coordinates to identify the culprits involved in the illegal burning.

He also encouraged Indonesia to ratify the Association of South-east Asian Nations Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

Dr Balakrishnan, speaking to reporters after the meeting with Dr Kambuaya, said he hopes the next day or two will see concrete measures. He noted that Indonesia said it is carrying out water bombing and cloud seeding.

Dr Kambuaya said he will travel to Riau as early as tonight to join four ministers to coordinate efforts there. They are Coordinating Welfare Minister Agung Laksono, Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan and Agriculture Minister Suswono.

Dr Balakrishnan and Dr Kambuaya also agreed to bring forward a meeting of ASEAN environment ministers to tackle the issue.