Can radar tech clean up the palm oil industry?

The recent announcement that 10 of the world’s largest palm oil producers and buyers are supporting the development of a “new, publicly available radar-based forest monitoring system” may be nothing more than a publicity stunt.After all, technology is not the answer to solving one of Southeast Asia’s most pressing environmental problems – the effective implementation and enforcement of policies is.The slash-and-burn method is the cheapest and fastest way to clear land for farming, and over th

15 November 2019

Indonesian forest fires put palm oil under scrutiny

A brutal Indonesian forest fire season that left Southeast Asia choking in smog has renewed scrutiny of major palm oil and paper companies, with activists accusing them of breaking promises to halt logging.The monster blazes sent a pall of acrid smoke over the region for weeks, closing schools and airports and causing a spike in respiratory ailments.Mostly lit to clear land for agriculture, they were the worst seen in the country since 2015.Leading companies have in recent years pledged not t

30 September 2019

Indonesian forest fires put 10 million kids at risk

Air pollution from Indonesian forest fires is putting nearly 10 million children at risk, the United Nations warned Tuesday, as scientists said the blazes were releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases.The fires have been spewing toxic haze over Southeast Asia in recent weeks, closing schools and airports, with people rushing to buy face masks and seek medical treatment for respiratory ailments.Jakarta has deployed tens of thousands of personnel and water-bombing aircraft to tackle the slash

25 September 2019

F1 race on as haze clears over Singapore

Singapore's skies cleared Friday and air quality improved as smog from raging Indonesian forest fires drifted away, easing fears that this weekend's Formula One race may be affected.The blazes have been spewing toxic haze across Southeast Asia, forcing the closure of schools and airports, and prompting Jakarta to deploy thousands of personnel to tackle them.The Indonesian fires are an annual problem during the dry season when farmers use illegal slash-and-burn techniques to clear la

21 September 2019

Haze-free ASEAN coming soon?

After more than two decades, the region is well on its way to achieving its vision of a transboundary haze-free ASEAN by 2020.In three months’ time, the haze will be a distant memory thanks to the effective work of the regional body and its member states in combatting ASEAN’s worst environmental crisis.In three months’ time, Southeast Asian governments will have found a long-term solution to the pale shadow cast over the southern regions of ASEAN every year caused by smoke from the burning of

20 September 2019

Nearly 200 arrested over raging forest fires

Indonesia has arrested nearly 200 people over vast forest fires ripping across the archipelago, police said Monday, as toxic haze sends air quality levels plummeting and sparks flight cancellations.Jakarta has deployed thousands of personnel to battle blazes that are turning land into charred landscapes and consuming forests in Sumatra and Borneo islands, where thousands of schools have been shut over health fears.The fires – usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming – have

18 September 2019

Singapore air 'unhealthy' ahead of F1 race

Pollution from forest fires in Indonesia pushed Singapore's air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years on Saturday, the government said, a week ahead of the Formula One (F1) night race in the city.The toxic smoke caused by burning to clear land for plantations is an annual problem for Indonesia's neighbours, but has been worsened this year by particularly dry weather."There has been a deterioration in the haze conditions in Singapore this afternoon,"

15 September 2019

Indonesia forest fires stoke global warming fears

The number of blazes in Indonesia’s rainforests has jumped sharply, satellite data showed Thursday, spreading smog across Southeast Asia and adding to concerns about the impact of increasing wildfire outbreaks worldwide on global warming.Illegal blazes to clear land for agricultural plantations have been raging on Sumatra and Borneo islands, with Indonesia deploying water-bombing helicopters and thousands of security forces to tackle them.It is just the latest such outbreak globally – huge bl

13 September 2019

Malaysia wants to make it rain

Malaysia prepared to seed clouds after air quality in parts of the country reached unhealthy levels due to smog from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia, an official said Monday.Smog regularly blankets parts of Southeast Asia during the dry season when burning is used to clear Indonesian land for palm oil, paper plantations and other crops, sparking ire from regional neighbours.In the latest outbreak, parts of Malaysia's eastern state of Sarawak on Borneo island have been blanketed ov

11 September 2019

Indonesian haze returns to Malaysia?

Last Friday, on 6 September, Malaysia’s Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) along with the Department of Environment (DOE), released a statement informing the public that the government will be in talks with its Indonesian counterpart in order to address transboundary haze.

10 September 2019

Indonesia threatens sackings over forest fires

Indonesian leader Joko Widodo warned Tuesday that officials would be sacked if they failed to stamp out rampant forest fires that are belching out toxic smog over Malaysia and Singapore.The threat came as Indonesia faced pressure from its neighbours to douse the blazes, which are blamed for sending air quality plummeting in parts of Southeast Asia."I've told the military and police chiefs to sack people who don't tackle forest fires," Widodo told a ministers meeting on the

7 August 2019

Planning a haze-free ASEAN

ASEAN’s vision of a haze-free region by 2020 looks increasingly cloudy by the day.A decades-long problem for the region, ASEAN defines haze as smoke resulting from land and/or forest fires which harm health, living resources, ecosystems and material property and impairs or interferes with amenities and other legitimate uses of the environment.The ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) was signed in 2002 to tackle haze in the region, and three years ago in 2016, ASEAN member n

25 March 2019