No smoke without fire

Kate Bystrova

Indonesian palm oil companies are suspected to be behind what environment minister Vivian Balakrishnan has called “the worst haze that Singapore has ever faced”. Smog first arrived in the country on 19 June and within days had surpassed ‘hazardous’ levels, according to Singapore’s pollutant standard index, making this the worst haze in the country’s history.

The elderly and those with respiratory ailments were most at risk, and residents were advised to remain indoors while schools and hospitals shut their windows against the dangerous smog. The pollution was the result of illegal forest fi res in neighbouring Indonesia’s palm oil plantations. The oil, used for cooking throughout South-East Asia, is the single most traded vegetable oil in the world. Indonesia is the world’s largest palm oil producer and, historically, farmers have used slash-and-burn methods to clear land quickly for production. Though illegal, they are difficult to monitor or prevent.

By late June, the bulk of the smog had shifted to Malaysia, but Singaporean officials warn that it could return. Investigations into the event have been slow and only one arrest has been made, to date, of a former Indonesian bank official, accused of torching “thousands of hectares”.

About the author:

Kate Bystrova is a Staff Writer at Nexus Strategic Partnerships


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