Friday, September 18, 2015

Haze: a Reflection Part 2

Last week, I have posted my overall take on the whole haze incident that hit Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. However, after looking at recent news on how the haze problem has become worse in parts of Sumatra (Riau, Jambi, and Pekanbaru), I want to dedicate another blog post to discuss/share my opinion on the matter.

Just yesterday (22/09/2015), I was looking through my Facebook feed and was shocked by a news article published by Channel News Asia entitled, "Protesters in Kalimantan decry Indonesian inaction against forest fire, haze". What caught my attention was not the prolonged duration of the haze, but the severity of the matter. The PSI reading in Palangka Raya (Central Sumatra) reached to a record high of 1995! Yes, you are reading that right, a number that represents the year of my birth; a number so high that a direct exposure for 10 consecutive minutes could cause devastating respiratory problems.

The figure was taken yesterday to depict the thickness of the smog/haze in Palangka Raya 

Let me introduce you to haze, and why it is such a big and unresolved matter that constantly plagues the locality. Most cases of haze are resulted from deliberate acts of land-clearing to provide enough space for palm-oil and paper pulp plantations. Over the years, efforts to reduce haze have bear little to no fruits, and one of the primary reasons is the fact that there are many parties/individuals who are involved in the issue. This would prevent any law-enforcing officials from pinpointing the exact players/actors who orchestrated the entire conspiracy/incidence.

Many palm-oil plantations in Sumatra are not single-handedly owned by a company from a single nationality. For instance, many Singaporeans set up subsidiary companies in Indonesia using local names and manpower to establish a plantation. This subsidiary company will then set up another subsidiary company using Malaysian identity to elude the officials from discovering the main players who actually authorized slash-and-burn practice. Despite officials managing to "catch" some executives of the allegedly responsible companies, these people are just the 'minions' who are readily sacrificed by the bigger players to save themselves. Even if the effort is commendable (as it is a step towards the right direction), it is not enough to completely stop the problem if the people at the top-of-the-food-chain are not dealt with properly.

Nevertheless, I was inspired by the acts of kindness and the solidarity displayed by the Indonesians to raise awareness and care for the susceptible. It was heartwarming to see Indonesians in parts of Palangka Raya sharing masks to the elderly, the sick, the children, and to those who were outdoor working; the officials evacuating the entire city to the nearest district with less haze until the condition has gotten better, the non-government activists who tirelessly protested in front of the government's house until were taken, and doctors who gave free aids for the sick. The nation as whole has become more aware of the problem and has worked together to lobby the local government and companies to take actions. I'm optimistic that in the future, if the people continue to act as one, the haze problem can be dealt with and eliminated once and for all. 

Cunico, K. (2015, September 22). Protesters in Kalimantan decry Indonesian inaction against forest fires, haze - Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved September 23, 2015, from

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