09 December 2014
President Jokowi’s visit to Riau Province recently and his comments on fires and smoke haze have raised hopes across the region. But the mere act of blocking canals on peatlands is, but one, of many interrelated and multifaceted issues he has to tackle.
The people of ASEAN have been enduring choking haze – primarily smoke from wild fires – for the past two decades. Despite numerous efforts, promises, and actions, the haze pollution has only gotten worse. However, the publicity surrounding newly-elected Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s recent visit to Riau Province, where most of the transboundary haze originates, hopefully points to a change for the better.
The President said: “For the past 17 years, forest fires are due to the practice of negligence and complacency. This is simply just an issue of whether we want to or not, whether we intend to or not … to solve the problem.” But if it was that simple, why were his predecessors not able to pull it off?
…Raman Letchumanan is a Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. The views expressed here are strictly his own. Dr Raman was the person-in-charge of fire and haze issues at the ASEAN Secretariat for 14 years, and prior to that in the Malaysian Government.
NTS Centre / Online
Last updated on 27/01/2016