Indonesian people pray in Pekanbaru on September 15, 2015.
Indonesian officials have begun evacuating infants and their mothers from Riau province in Indonesia as levels of air pollution from peat and forest fires on Sumatra remain hazardous across the region.
The Goddard Institute previously released a report in 2009, warning that Indonesia was a “disproportionate contributor” to atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Under criticism from its neighbors, the government has investigated more than 200 companies and ordered four to suspend operations for allegedly causing forest fires as it scrambles to control blazes on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands.
Singapore had earlier offered to help Indonesia to deal with the situation but the move was rejected from its government.
A lengthy dry season in Indonesia this year has been worsened by the El Nino weather effect, making it harder to contain the fires in the absence of rains that usually arrive in November.
Indonesia has sent almost 21,000 personnel to fight forest fires raging in its northern islands, the disaster management agency said on Tuesday, but smoke cloaks much of the region with pollution readings in the “very unhealthy” region in neighbouring Singapore.
“The problem is, most of the fires were happening outside of known (land) concession boundaries”, said WRI research analyst Andika Putraditama.
President Joko Widodo – who came to power previous year and is viewed as a break from a string of rulers with links to the Suharto era – vowed to solve past rights abuse cases, but Amnesty said yesterday not enough was being done.
“Are we able to manage the fires?”
She declined to comment on questions about the budget for fire prevention and efforts to make land allocation more transparent.
Growth in Southeast Asia’s economy slowed to the least since 2009 in the second quarter and the rupiah is down 16 percent this year in Asia’s worst performance after Malaysia’s ringgit. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have all been suffering from acrid smoke for weeks, as plantations and across the countries continue to burn.
Singapore too have begun legal action against five Indonesian firms it believes are among the culprits behind the fires.
“We have not heard of plans in wanting to sue the companies”. Much of the environmental degradation has been driven by logging and conversion for industrial oil palm and timber plantations.
The annual haze crisis has persisted as plantations expand to meet rising global demand for products like palm oil, a key ingredient in a vast range of everyday consumer products. “It requires a lot of physical ground work on the land tracts which will take time”. Through satellite data and online maps the RSPO has tracked the origins of the current haze.