Indonesia’s Forest Fires & Haze Plague Singapore and Malaysia
The haze, caused by dozens of forest fires on Sumatra and Kalimantan, and which have spread to Singapore and Malaysia, is expected to plague the three countries in the next couple of days. Indonesian authorities, which are currently investigating forest fires in Central Kalimantan, South Sumatra, Riau, West Kalimantan and Jambi, mentioned that there are 107 people who have been named suspects, involved in 68 acts of slash-and-burn practices (according to Indonesian media).
The haze brings unhealthy air quality to parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. In fact, the air quality may deteriorate in the next couple of days due to unfavorable winds blowing denser haze to Singapore and Malaysia. Singaporean authorities advised their residents, especially children, pregnant women and elderly, to avoid prolonged outdoor activities. Meanwhile, various outdoor events were cancelled over the weekend due to the haze as it can cause respiratory problems, and irritate the eyes as well as throat. Next week Singapore is to organize its annual Formula One race.
In Indonesia, water dumping (by helicopters) continued in the western part of Sumatra and Kalimantan in an effort to combat the forest fires. Meanwhile, it also applied cloud-seeding (chemically-induced rain).
It was also reported in Indonesian media that one palm oil company, Riau-based Langgam Inti Hibrida, has been charged with slash-and-burn practices as well as improper waste management. An investigation into the practices of this company started a month ago. Langgam Inti Hibrida is a subsidiary of publicly listed Provident Agro.
Annual forest fires and hazes are a ‘traditional’ problem in Southeast Asia as people and companies (usually palm oil and pulp & paper companies) use slash-and-burn practices to clear land in Sumatra and Kalimantan. A prolonged dry season (due to the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon) exacerbates the situation.