09 October 2015
The smoke haze crisis in Southeast Asia has come back with a vengeance, threatening the lives and health of millions. No one seems to know how best to deal with it or how long it will last this time.
What started as the usual annual fire and haze episode about a month ago has morphed literally into a pall of danger permeating every daily activity of millions of people in the region. Anyone and anything that breathes is affected directly by the haze. Over the last month the air quality has been consistently deteriorating into the very unhealthy range (with PSI more than 200); in Indonesia the index has gone well beyond 2000, noting that 300 marks the hazardous level, the worst air quality.
More and more social and economic activities are being cancelled or curtailed, and political and diplomatic relations are becoming frayed among neighbouring countries. Never before have the people in this tropical region yearned so much to wake up to a sunny and clear day. Indonesia, where most of the fires and haze originate, is trying its best to put out the fires. Tens of thousands of firefighters have been deployed, supported by aerial water bombing. However, Indonesia has warned that, unless heavy rain falls, the situation is expected to last until November. Why have things gone so wrong?
… Raman Letchumanan is a Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He served as a senior official at the ASEAN Secretariat for 14 years. This is part of a new RSIS series on the regional haze issue.
NTS Centre / Online
Last updated on 13/11/2015