Transboundary haze: What to do? – Gurdial Singh Nijar

Source: The Sun Daily

BY GURDIAL SINGH NIJAR
(Deputy President, HAKAM)

Thick smoke rising from over the Ogan Komering Ilir area in South Sumatra on Saturday. Indonesia has launched its biggest operation ever to combat fires blanketing Southeast Asia in smoke, but experts say the poor air quality could continue into next year. – AFP pic, October 19, 2015. Drawn from TMI.

THE haze (or smog) that envelopes us every year is becoming intolerable. It has continued for almost 13 years. Each time we are assured that the levels are acceptable, not that dangerous and a solution is coming. Recently, a deputy minister promised that a “haze free region” will soon be achieved.

The Indonesian government says it’s getting tough – “no more dragging of feet”. True to word 140 suspects were rounded up last month including some corporate figures.

More recently an Indonesian and a Malaysian palm oil company were dealt with rather severely; the former an unprecedented record fine of RM107 million; the latter’s manager jailed for a year as well.

Heavy penalties are rare. Although, to be fair, under the new president Joko Widodo, the Indonesian government has revoked (on Oct 7) the licences of four plantations identified as being the culprits.

But green groups and others are sceptical. Several cases dating back to 2012-2013 remain in limbo with no conviction. Remember, that was when Malaysia had to declare a “haze emergency” because air pollution was at a record high. Read more