Annual haze from Indonesia to go on for at least a decade

Annual haze from Indonesia to go on for at least a decade

7 August 2006

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Indonesia — The annual haze originating from land-clearing fires in Indonesia is likely to keep on blanketing South-East Asia without let up for the next decade, officials said in a publishedreport Monday.

Responsibility for the problem originates not just with subsistence farmers scrambling to clear land but also syndicates and plantation owners, they said.

“The use of fire is something that has been practised for many generations,” The Straits Times quoted Herman Prayitno, a subdirectorat Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry, as saying. “People cannot expect the practice to disappear overnight.”

The thousands of fires set in the provinces of Riau and West Kalimantan are the source of the smoky haze carried by winds to Indonesia’s South-East Asian neighbours including Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

Visibility is drastically diminished and health problems arise, particularly for asthma sufferers. The haze during some years has kept tourists away.

Indonesia has enacted laws to prohibit firms and large-scale farmers from open burning, but the government admits that it cannot stamp out the fires.

“It is undoubtedly the cheapest method for subsistence farmers, who have to clear land to plant food,” Brad Sanders, a fire and safety manager with a fibre plantation, told the newspaper.

The Fire Bulletin issued by the World Wide Fund for Nature said that satellite readings for last month showed that Riau had as many as 1,419 hot spots and West Kalimantan had 1,544.


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