Indonesian Government Combating Haze in Southeast Asia

Sean Johnson

Fires that were lit to clear land for palm oil plantations on Sumatra earlier this week are causing an increase in health problems for people in Singapore.

Fires that were intentionally lit to clear land for palm oil plantations on Sumatra earlier this week are causing a “significant increase in health problems” for people in Singapore.

Singapore’s foreign minister George Yeo reportedly spoke on the phone with Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa today to “express concern about the haze and to reiterated Singapore's readiness to help.”

Indonesia will be needing the help; the pollution standards index (PSI) went over 100 yesterday, an unhealthy measurement that signals an uptick in respiratory problems.

More than 80,000 students were ordered to remain at home yesterday, and were given face masks and bottled water upon their return today. Soccer games were also canceled yesterday because of the smoke, and many flights in the region were canceled as well.

Approximately 200 fires were lit to make way for the oil palm plantations, and the timing is quite deliberate, as they come ahead of an Indonesian environmental protection plan that seeks to impose a two-year moratorium on any new permits to clear forests for such purposes. This problem is nothing new for the region, but many point to a lack of enforcement by the Indonesian government as a major part of the ongoing problem.

Around the Web:

Indonesian haze increases Singapore health problems [Reuters]

Indonesia Seeks to Stem Haze [Wall Street Journal]

Sumatra fires cause Singapore haze[BBC News]