17 February 2020 (closed)
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Forest fires on the Indonesian island Sumatra have brought severe smog over Singapore's skyline for the past five days, reaching record breaking levels of air pollution in Southeast Asia's wealthy city state. The forest fires are believed to be caused by illegal slash and burn practice on Indonesia's forest-rich island of Sumatra (for palm oil expansion) and represent a recurring problem in the dry season. Besides the environmental disaster, the forest fires cause health issues as well as economic losses for Singapore.
A small diplomatic riot occurred when Indonesia's minister of People's Welfare, Agung Laksono, said that Singapore "behaves like a child" as "this is not what the Indonesian nation wants, [but] it is because of nature." Singapore has urged Indonesia to conduct thorough investigation into companies and concession maps in order to find the source of this slash-and-burn farming.
The thick smoke, which may continue for weeks, means that Singapore's hospitality sector will face economic losses as tourists will ignore the city state for a while. Tourism is an important asset in terms of revenue for the country. Moreover, the Pollutants Standards Index rose to a record-high level of 401 on Friday, which is potentially life-threatening to ill and elderly people.
In Indonesian media, the topic of these forest fires has been somewhat overshadowed by the recent fuel subsidy issue.