Forest fire haze: Still no effective solution

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HazeThe suffocating smog that much of Southeast Asia suffered through in June is back. Last week it started to again blanket much of Malaysia, and authorities are now warning that the worst may be yet to come.

This is because forest fires in the region are usually most common in the dry season between August and October, and thus we are just entering the period when they are most likely to be lit. The fires that blazed on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in June were unusually large for that month, and produced the worst air pollution in Southeast Asia since 1997. Unfortunately, the factors that caused those June fires are still at work.

Namely, these factors are palm-oil and pulpwood plantations. Though there are laws against it, many of these plantations expand their agricultural land by burning forests. Indonesia’s forests are disappearing so fast in this manner that the country is now the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with 75% of emissions stemming from deforestation, according to Time magazine.

The problem is that palm oil and pulp are so profitable that plantation owners have huge incentives to flout the no-burn laws. Palm oil is used in chocolate candy, soap, lipstick, lotion, and a large variety of other products. Pulp is used for paper. Both of these basic materials are in such demand that there are fortunes to be made in their production. Indonesia has long been the largest palm oil producer in the world.

Until the Indonesian government effectively and consistently cracks down on these corporate slash and burn artists, the haze will plague Malaysians every year. One can only hope that this year some of these Indonesian plantations will be chastened by the memory of June’s extreme pollution. So far, the signs are not looking good.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The suffocating smog that much of Southeast Asia suffered through in June is back. Last week it started to again blanket much of Malaysia, and authorities are now warning that the worst may be yet to come.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

HazeThe suffocating smog that much of Southeast Asia suffered through in June is back. Last week it started to again blanket much of Malaysia, and authorities are now warning that the worst may be yet to come.

This is because forest fires in the region are usually most common in the dry season between August and October, and thus we are just entering the period when they are most likely to be lit. The fires that blazed on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in June were unusually large for that month, and produced the worst air pollution in Southeast Asia since 1997. Unfortunately, the factors that caused those June fires are still at work.

Namely, these factors are palm-oil and pulpwood plantations. Though there are laws against it, many of these plantations expand their agricultural land by burning forests. Indonesia’s forests are disappearing so fast in this manner that the country is now the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with 75% of emissions stemming from deforestation, according to Time magazine.

The problem is that palm oil and pulp are so profitable that plantation owners have huge incentives to flout the no-burn laws. Palm oil is used in chocolate candy, soap, lipstick, lotion, and a large variety of other products. Pulp is used for paper. Both of these basic materials are in such demand that there are fortunes to be made in their production. Indonesia has long been the largest palm oil producer in the world.

Until the Indonesian government effectively and consistently cracks down on these corporate slash and burn artists, the haze will plague Malaysians every year. One can only hope that this year some of these Indonesian plantations will be chastened by the memory of June’s extreme pollution. So far, the signs are not looking good.

 

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