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2015 Haze in Southeast Asia: Causes, human rights impacts & the roles of business & govt.


This is a compilation of 2015 reports related to the seasonal occurrence of air pollution or haze in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore caused by the movement of smoke from forest fires in palm oil plantations. Recently, the haze has also reached parts of the Philippines and Thailand.

A related story with company responses is available here.

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2 November 2015

Indonesia: 19 people have died from haze-related ailments, thousands afflicted with respiratory diseases -report

Author: Eauan McKirdy, CNN

“Southeast Asia's haze crisis: A 'crime against humanity'”, 29 Oct 2015

Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are choking under a thick haze of wildfire smoke caused by the annual burning of land for the production of pulp, paper and palm oil on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The haze is so bad it's been described by the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) as a "crime against humanity." Schools are closed, transport disrupted and half a million cases of acute respiratory infection have been recorded since July. The annual burning churns out thick smoke across parts of Southeast Asia, but this summer's haze is the worst it's been for 20 years…

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26 October 2015

Erik Meijaard: Indonesia's fire crisis — the biggest environmental crime of the 21st century

Author: Erik Meijaard, Jakarta Globe

…Why has the Indonesian government not taken serious steps to stop and control the fire and haze problem?... By its own estimate a few weeks ago, the fire and haze issue was going to cost Indonesia $35 billion. That would be about 4 percent of Indonesia’s gross national product, basically wiping out all economic growth for 2015…I also don’t know whether these figures take the many intangible impacts of fire into consideration, like haze-related traffic accidents, canceled flights, or businesses that cannot operate? What about the impacts of haze-related unemployment…But much more importantly, how does one account for the cost of health impacts and deaths?... There are so many direct and indirect socio-economic impacts, and the total costs of Indonesia’s poorly managed fire problem might well reach the $50 billion mark or go beyond…I think what might help to garner action both locally and globally is to call this year’s fire and haze disaster what it really is: the biggest environmental crime of the 21st century. 

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28 September 2015

Avaaz petition calls on Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore heads of state to take urgent action against forest fires

Author: Avaaz

“Halt the haze health hazard”, Sept 2015

To Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak and ASEAN heads of government: As citizens concerned about the threat forest fires pose to people and planet, we call on you to take urgent action by redoubling recent efforts to hold those responsible for starting fires to account through better law-enforcement, government reform, and strong climate action. We urge you to come up with a comprehensive fire-prevention plan and support industry commitments to stop the haze. 

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23 September 2015

Indonesia: NGOs challenge paper firms’ claim that forest fires start outside suppliers’ land; APP & April comment

Author: David Fogarty, Straits Times (Singapore)

“Haze: Firms feel heat as pressure mounts”, 21 Sept 2015

…According to Global Forest Watch…48 per cent of fire alerts in the Sept 13 to 20 period were outside concession lands, while 45 per cent were reported within pulpwood concessions…A coalition of Indonesian NGOs in Sumatra's Riau province has also found that 56 timber suppliers of the Singapore-based Asia Pulp and Paper (App)…as well as its rival Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (April)…were detected having hot spots from January to August…Ms Aida Greenbury, APP's managing director of sustainability [said]…"hot spot maps can only show the location of hot spots…On-the-ground verification and thorough investigation is needed to identify where, how and why fires start…April spokesman told The Straits Times: "Our verified data says we currently have no fires in our concessions.”…

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18 September 2015

Indonesia: Police arrest personnel of companies linked to agricultural fires that cause haze, illness

Author: AFP

"South-East Asia's haze: Indonesia arrests seven suspects", 18 Sept 2015

Indonesian police have detained seven people whose companies are allegedly connected with illegal agricultural fires that have cloaked South-East Asia in haze, in rare arrests over the annual smog outbreaks. They were arrested…on Indonesia's Sumatra island, where authorities have been battling smog-belching blazes which were started to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations, national police chief Badrodin Haiti said…Tens of thousands have fallen ill in parts of Indonesia as the haze thickened over the past fortnight, and the smog has led to unhealthy air quality and reduced visibility in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia…President Joko Widodo pledged this week to crack down on companies and individuals behind the fires, and hundreds of extra police and investigators have been sent to haze-hit areas to hunt for those responsible…

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