KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is writing to Indonesia’s leader to raise his concern about cross-border haze, Malaysia‘s environment minister said on Thursday, as a row over smoke from forest fires simmers.
Fires have burnt through parts of Indonesia’s Sumatra and Borneo islands for more than a month, and the Indonesian government has sent thousands of security personnel to try to douse the blazes. They are usually set during operations to clear land for palm oil and pulp plantations.
In what has become an almost annual occurrence, especially in dry years, Indonesia’s neighbors are becoming alarmed by the thick haze wafting in, and raising concern about health and the impact on tourism.
“I have discussed this with the prime minister and he has agreed to write a letter to President Jokowi to draw his attention toward the issue of trans-boundary haze,” Malaysia‘s environment minister, Yeo Bee Yin, told reporters, referring to Indonesian President Joko Widodo by his nickname.
Mahathir’s office was preparing the letter and it would be delivered soon, Yeo said.
The government had also prepared aircraft for cloud seeding in the hope of generating rain, Yeo said.
Several parts of Southeast Asia have endured unusually dry conditions in recent months including Indonesia, which has seen very little rain because of an El Nino weather pattern, its meteorological department has said.
Thousands of Indonesians prayed for rain in haze-hit towns on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff in KUALA LUMPUR and Agustinus Beo Da Costa in JAKARTA; Writing by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Robert Birsel)