News / Asia

Indonesian Fires Reveal Unfulfilled Environmental Promises

Indonesian Fires Reveal Unfufilled Environmental Promisesi
X
July 01, 2013 11:43 PM
Singapore and Malaysia recently suffered through the worst air pollution crisis in 16 years, due mostly to slash-and-burn deforestation fires in Indonesia. The president of Indonesia has apologized and promised to investigate the cause, but as VOA’s Brian Padden reports, his public commitment to reduce pollution and protect the environment, at least in the short term, have not slowed the rate of deforestation.
Brian Padden
Singapore and Malaysia recently suffered through the worst air pollution crisis in 16 years, due mostly to slash-and-burn deforestation fires in Indonesia. The president of Indonesia has apologized and promised to investigate the cause, but  his public commitment to reduce pollution and protect the environment, at least in the short term, have not slowed the rate of deforestation.

It's an annual occurrence in the dry season: a smoky, hazardous haze blankets southern Malaysia and Singapore.  This year it was so bad that in some affected areas there was a 100 percent rise in the number of asthma cases. Hundreds of schools were closed, and the government of Malaysia distributed gas masks.

The source of the pollution lies across the Malacca Strait in Indonesia where illegal burning of forests to clear space for palm oil plantations continues unabated.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono offered a public apology.

"For what has happened, as president, I apologized and asked for the understanding of brothers in Singapore and Malaysia," he said.

The Indonesian president promised to prosecute anyone involved in illegal slash-and-burn activities. Eight Southeast Asian companies are reportedly under investigation.

But the ongoing deforestation seems to contradict past promises. In 2009, President Yudhoyono pledged to reduce by 26 percent greenhouse gas emissions, caused mostly by deforestation. And in 2011, he instituted a moratorium protecting designated forest areas. In exchange, environmentally conscious Norway pledged $1 billion to support these efforts.  

Ariana Alisjahbana at the World Resources Institute says local officials are not supporting the national plan.

“Actually it’s a lack of coordination and lack of enforcement. So when we look over all the different rules Indonesia has on the books, theoretically speaking they’re very, very good ones. But they’re just not enforced," said Alisjahbana.

Although the economic incentive to replace forests with farms hampers conservation, Alisjahbana says long-term progress is being made.   

“Only four percent of the fires, of the fire alerts, happened in protected areas. So I think one of the really good solutions is to actually, you know, designate the area as protected," she said.

But she says a greater commitment to stop the slash-and-burn deforestation through incentives and strict penalties for violations is needed.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid