Indonesia's president orders action against those lighting fires to clear forest land after smoke haze chokes neighbouring countries. Paul Chapman reports.
PLEASE NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3 Indonesian authorities began tackling forest fires in South Sumatra province after the president ordered a crackdown. The fires are started as part of slash-and-burn land clearance practices that causes massive smog over parts of Indonesia and its neighbours. The problem this year's been worsened by a prolonged dry season because of the El Nino weather phenomenon which has parched the top layers of soil. Indonesia's disaster management agency says 3, 000 military and police personnel are trying to extinguish the fires with helicopters and cloud-seeding aircraft. This is the impact of the smog on neighbouring Singapore. Air quality levels have been in the unhealthy range for days, causing breathing problems, eye and throat irritation. Malaysia's also suffering. The smog's so bad some schools have been forced to close. It's also caused airline flight delays because of poor visibility. Malaysian weather forecasters say it's worse than last year. (SOUNDBITE)(English) METEOROLOGY OFFICER AMBUN DINDANG SAYING: "This year is a bit worse, more hazy condition compared to last year, because last year what can we see is that not many places was affected by serious haze compared to this year where we can see the state of Sarawak, some part of southern and central peninsular Malaysia is seriously affected by the haze." The smog is caused by firms and small-holder farmers clearing land adjacent to existing concessions for palm or pulp and paper. Such illegal slash-and-burn activities in Indonesia have plagued Southeast Asia for years but governments in the region have repeatedly failed to address the problem. Indonesian police say they're investigating several companies and individuals suspected of involvement in starting the fires.