Wildfire emergency, Kuala Lumpur demands need concrete measures from Jakarta
Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The government of Kuala Lumpur has once again been forced to close schools nationwide and has launched an official protest against Jakarta, calling for concrete measures to stop the wildfire emergency that has shrouded the region in smog for weeks.
In a statement released by the official Bernama newsagency, the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that "only Indonesia can gather evidence and convict the companies involved". However, already a few days ago the President of Indonesia Joko "Jokowi" Widodo stated that "it is a problem that cannot be solved easily."
In an effort to contain the wildfire emergency, the leaders in Jakarta have deployed more than 20 thousand workers, including soldiers.
In neighboring Malaysia five areas are considered "at great risk to health" with pollutants well above average and at levels considered "dangerous". The blanket of smoke given off by fires can cause coughing, difficulty breathing and chest infections. The Malaysian Minister of Education Mahdzir Khalid stressed that "we are not willing to compromise when it comes to the health of our students."
Meanwhile, yesterday organizers canceled one of the most important marathons held throughout the year in Kuala Lumpur at the last moment, for fear of harming more than 30 thousand runners who had entered in the competition.
The day before Singapore had canceled several scheduled races for the local leg of the World Cup swimming competition, following a gradual deterioration in air quality from "unhealthy" to "very unhealthy" and with the Pollutant Standards Index at 242. Local authorities continue to distribute tens of thousands of masks to the population.
For weeks, a thick blanket of smoke, given off by arson or provoked by farmers to clear fields, wraps entire areas of the archipelago, causing serious damage to the health of citizens. In recent weeks, the Malaysian authorities have ordered the temporary closure of schools in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas.
Environmentalists and activists point the finger at companies active in the production of palm oil, in particular the illegal growers as being behind the fires. It is not the first time that a similar emergency has affected the country. Last year, according to data from the Department of Health of Pkanbaru, 30 thousand people suffered from severe respiratory problems due to smoke from wildfires.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has deployed army and police, promising exemplary punishment of those responsible. In recent days the police have opened an investigation and have already made some arrests of those allegedly responsible (along with authors and beneficiaries) of the fires.