Forest fire in South Sumatra province in September, 2015 (Photo: Reuters/VNA)

Jakarta (VNA) – Indonesia assured its Southeast Asian neighbours that it will take measures to tackle haze caused by forest fires and slash-and-burn farming.

Indonesia came under the spotlight at the annual ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on August 11.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Arief Yuwono, Indonesian senior energy advisor to the minister of environment and forestry, said that the Government is committed to preventing land and forest fires.

He noted that the Government aims to enhance forest fire prevention capacity at local levels by setting up fire brigades in some 700 villages.

In a joint statement, ASEAN environmental ministers said that the bloc’s member states will step up haze preventing efforts to minimise cross-border smoke from land and forest fires.

The ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre based in Singapore forecasted the dry season to take place in the region in August and September this year.

At the meeting, ministers discussed the establishment of ASEAN coordinating center for cross-border haze pollution control and reviewed the standard operating procedures for monitoring, assessment and joint emergency response.

They also discussed sustainable management of peat land and agricultural land.

Last year, Southeast Asia experienced one of the worst haze episodes since 1997. The Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) recorded in Indonesia’s Kalimantan and Sumatra provinces hit nearly 2,000, or almost six times the “hazardous” level of 350.

Smog from Indonesia spread to Singapore, Malaysia, southern Thailand and the Philippines.-VNA