Jakarta. Vice President Jusuf Kalla has denounced neighboring Singapore and Malaysia for complaining about the severe haze caused every year by Indonesian forest fires. He said he took note of the way the neighboring countries had kept complaining when toxic haze from adjacent areas in Indonesia, Riau in particular, fouled their air.
“For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us. They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset,” Kalla said on Tuesday.
Environmental group Greenpeace Indonesia reported forest fires in Riau have worsened from 6,644 hotspots in 2011 to 15,112 hotspots in 2013.
Kalla said Indonesia has repeatedly and profoundly apologized for the forest fires and for the inconvenience and pollution the haze caused in neighboring countries.
However, the outspoken vice president has previously sparked controversy when he claimed that foreign technology was behind the forest fires and therefore foreign countries must share the burden of responsibility in dealing with the forest fires.
“Somebody once told me that Indonesia must restore its tropical forests, and I told him, ‘Excuse me? What did you say? Do you know who damaged our forests?’” Kalla added.
Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency, or BNPD, said the potential economic losses from the fires and haze that took place during the emergency period that ran from Feb. 26 to April 4 last year were estimated at Rp 20 trillion ($1.6 billion).
Nearly 22,000 hectares of land were adversely affected, including 2,400 hectares in biosphere reserves. Nearly six million people were exposed to the haze, and 58,000 people suffered respiratory problems as a result.