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Singapore offers haze assistance to Malaysia, Indonesia

SINGAPORE, June 10 (Bernama) -- Singapore has offered assistance to Indonesia and Malaysia to combat possible land and forest fires in the run-up to the traditional dry season.

In a statement today, the environment and water resources ministry said this was to prevent another episode of severe transboundary haze from affecting the region.

The assistance is in the form of fire-fighting and planning assistance from Singapore Civil Defence Force, and for cloud-seeding operations.

Transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires during the traditional dry season from June to October has been a perennial problem in the southern Asean region in the past decades.

Illegal land clearing and 'slash and burn' agricultural practices in Indonesia, particularly Sumatra and Kalimantan, have been identified as the main cause of the fire that results in transboundary haze pollution in the region.

Singapore saw its worst haze episode in 2013 when the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit an unprecedented high of 246 on June 20, far exceeding the levels in 1997 (138) and 2006 (128).

Given that there is a possibility of the El Nino weather phenomenon affecting our region this year, the ministry said smoke haze pollution in the region could reach worse levels this year if fires were not promptly stemmed at source.

In past years, Singapore has consistently offered assistance packages to Indonesia to help suppress fires.

Early this year, Singapore was also affected by haze from Peninsular Malaysia.

In March, this year, the 24-hour PSI entered the moderate range and reached a high of 75 on March 12.

The Singapore Government has also offered assistance to the Malaysian Government to help combat land and forest fires, should such a need arise.

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