Air Wars Episode 2: The Return of The Haze (2016)

The news is no stranger to this now popularly used term, 'The Haze'. Like a villain in a Star Wars film it brings about a bad taste in the mouth, but unlike the Star Wars franchise, we aren't hoping for a sequel. Yet, here we are in 2016 with 'Episode 2' of the constant war against air pollution, which sees the enemy we thought (hoped) had died in Episode 1 returning with vengenace, and us screaming "why won't you just die?!" at the cinema screen. Yes, The Haze is back, spreading "the dark side" over South East Asia...

During periods of 2015, huge areas of forest in Sumatra and Kalimantan were ablaze in some of the worst forest fires the country had seen in years. Of course, other than the devastating loss of primary forest and incredibly precious wildlife habitats, these fires resulted in frightening hazes dubbed the ‘Southeast Asian Haze’. Locally, toxic orange air spread through the nearby areas, whilst huge clouds of smog crossed international borders into neighbouring Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and so on, creating cross-country tension. [See Singapore and Malaysia ‘Before and After’ The Haze.]


This year the problem returns. Really though, it never went away but as hazes receded from neighbouring countries, forest fire ‘hotspot’ numbers decreased and wet weather assisted, things seemed to be settling. But, the crazy, hazy catastrophe has not ended, as more hotspots caused by small-scale farmers (much more than large companies, according to this source) suddenly spiked in August, causing a slight panic for the Indonesian Government.


On 16 September 2016, over 5000 troops were sent into west and central Kalimantan to fight new fires seen from satellite images, but the recent lack of rain has meant finding water sources to put out the fires is becoming increasingly different – the same problem persists with cloud seeding, where no suitable clouds could be found above key hotspots.


Despite optimism in June, when the Indonesian Government seemed hopeful for the rest of the year (as reported by Bloomberg), unpredictable weather can make things go either way in these areas.


In an effort to curb small-farmers and individuals from lighting fires in the forests or farmlands, recent reports show that ‘Scholars’ cite Quran verses that declare burning of forests haram, or a sin. Perhaps news to many devout Muslims, but if it helps the situation in the areas then who’s to say it isn’t worth trying to change behaviour with different motivation – as enforcing the law hasn’t been proven useful. Will it be enough? Only time will tell…

Source: Straitstimes

Source: Straitstimes

Indonesia has been attempting to reduce forest fires and has been criticized by neighboring nations for many years now. In 2014, Indonesia ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, yet despite more than 400 arrests on individuals related to forest fires (this year alone), not to mention the immense fines against the companies which contributed to the disaster, the haze continues to linger in the air, the news, amongst the skyscrapers and within many people’s lungs…

If slash-and-burn methods continue in these sensitive areas, if the law is not enforced, if people are not educated in their wrongdoings – basically, if we do not learn from our mistakes, Indonesia (and South East Asia) could see a long line of sequels in these dreaded Air Wars. Let’s hope it doesn’t take 6 Episodes (like Star Wars, for those who aren’t familiar) for us to have our happy ending.

Source: Straitstime

Source: Straitstime

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