The haze issue has always been somewhat an annual occurrence in Singapore and it seems like it might just come back again with the quickly increasing number of brushfires raging in Indonesia – one that has already smothered the Riau province in thick haze and caused the shutdown of 200 schools as well as a sharp rise in respiratory illnesses.
Earlier this week, the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency already counted more than a 150 hotspots on satellite imagery provided to the Indonesian officials. In just one day this number tripled – with approximately 460 hotspots apparent throughout Sumatra.
Many are once again putting the blame on the local farmers as they stick by the conventional method of setting plots of land ablaze in order to make space for crop cultivation.
The Indonesian government themselves have also diverted blame from the larger international farming corporations to the small-scale farmers. Raffles Panjaitan, the director of forestry investigations and observation at the Ministry of Forestry told their local news that it is an “old tradition” for them to use such methods to clear foliage. “We never intend to send smoke [to Singapore], but the wind might be heading there. We are concerned about this.”
According to Indonesia’s local news sources, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has “ordered all disaster mitigation officers to do everything in their power to prevent the spread of haze to neighboring countries”. Following the rise in tension between Singapore and Indonesia with the naming of the warships, this was an effort to “prevent further strains on cross-border relations”.
Additionally, the recent hot and dry spells in Indonesia have been adding on to the issue of forest fires. It not only prolongs the fires but worsens the intensity of these brushfires as well.
There is an evident concern here following last year’s incident that covered Singapore and Malaysia in a thick layer of haze. Singaporeans also underwent the worst air quality in a decade last year during the hazy period.
Just earlier this week, Singapore’s environment minister Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan has expressed his concern over social media platform Facebook of the possibility of a worsening haze “when winds weaken next week”.
After the haze that left many Singaporeans unhappy (and sick) last year, it was a prominent issue brought up during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations security conference held in mid 2013. There was an agreement to set up a transnational haze monitoring system.
However, with the weak enforcement and lack of monitoring of illegal activities, together with the forests’ massive sizes and remoteness, it has led to the continual and widespread illegal burning in Indonesian forests.
(Cover photo taken from news.softpedia.com)