Jan 19, 2019 | Updated: 08:39 AM EST

Indonesia Haze: Crime Against Humanity

Oct 27, 2015 08:11 PM EDT


With an estimated half a million people suffering from respiratory infections, the fume of wildfire in Indonesia, considered the most severe throughout history, is pinpointed as the cause. The clouds of smog spreading over to other neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Singapore, across Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam and even some parts of the Philippines.

With palm oil as their biggest produce, fire in Indonesia or known as the "slash and burn" is intentional for new plantations as this is the swift and rapid way to clear the land. But this time, the situation has gotten out of control because of the prolonged dry season and El Niño.

"What you've got here is a history in these areas of poor management of the land... A lot of the land is peat, deep peat, which is very rich in organic matter, and produces a tremendous amount of air pollution when it's burned," Nigel Sizer, the World Resources Institute forests director said. These peats make Indonesia's wildfire difficult to contain as these sloughs are able to keep heat and allow it to spread underneath the ground.

The fire turned surrounding communities' air, especially Samatra and Kalimantan, into sepia-coloured noxious smothering blanket of smoke with a pollutant standard index level as high as ten times the considered hazardous level by the World Health Organization.

The Indonesian government has already declared six provinces under state of emergency. Even neighbouring countries are affected and are taking measures. For instance, schools in Singapore and Malaysia have been reportedly closed, several aviation flights were cancelled, and Indonesia-made products were boycotted according to the Guardian.

Since July, the Indonesian Disaster Agency reported over half a million cases of acute respiratory tract infection, and ten haze-related deaths were reported in Sumatra and Kalimantan as per the Guardian. Although Sutopo Puro Nugroho, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency's spokesman, admitted that there is still a high number of unrecorded cases and recognized that there is a rough estimate of 43 million people suffering.

Mashable reports that according to Global Forest Watch's data, "in a sign of how little improvement there as been, as of Monday, the number of fires are still at near peak levels throughout Indonesia." Nugroho, on the other hand, said "This is a crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions... But now is not the time to point fingers but to focus on how we can deal with this quickly."

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