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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid