BANGKOK, 2 November 2019. Transboundary haze from forest fires in Southeast Asia – particularly Indonesia – has reduced air quality to levels where economic loss can be expected and health can be impacted, in areas where millions of Southeast Asians live. At this very moment during the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, ASEAN leaders have a great opportunity to end transboundary haze once and for all, by taking real action and implementing an existing regional agreement.

Massive forest fires happened in Indonesia during July to October 2019. Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry recently announced that forest fires burned 857,756 hectares between January and September this year,[1] an area almost 12 times the size of Singapore. The haze reached neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, and certain parts of Thailand, causing economic loss and health problems in areas which are home to millions.[2]

Greenpeace Indonesia observes that at least four groups with offices in Malaysia and Singapore have been linked to forest fires that spread smoky haze around Southeast Asia. They are IOI, Genting, Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) and Bumitama. Although most of the forest fires are happening in Indonesia, addressing this problem is not only the responsibility of Indonesia.

From 2019 forest fires, there has been an increase in complained of respiratory and eye-related illnesses in Malaysia since September. The Indonesian National Disaster Agency (BNPB) in September announced that almost one million people were diagnosed with acute respiratory infections in affected areas, with children and elderly people being the most vulnerable groups.[3]

“We know many of these fires are happening in and near oil palm and pulp and paper plantations. Some of the large oil palm and pulp and paper plantations belong to Malaysian and Singaporean groups,” said Ratri Kusumohartono, Greenpeace Indonesia Forest Campaigner.

Asean countries have agreed on the Haze-Free Roadmap for a transboundary haze-free ASEAN by 2020 to control the annual haze problem. However as 2020 is drawing near, people still fail to see real action, commitment and implementation around this.

“In 2015 ASEAN leaders failed to come up with strong implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. Until now the implementation of the ASEAN Agreement has been weak, even after the prolonged and severe haze of 2015. In the midst of the 35th ASEAN Summit, ASEAN leaders have the opportunity to address this problem by doing real action and implementing the AATHP plan. Together member states need to enforce the law, and prosecute those responsible for fires, both at subsidiary and group levels. Last but not least, all company concession maps should be published and information shared across all ASEAN member states to improve transparency and law enforcement on forest fires,” Ratri concluded.

–##–

Note to Editors: 

[1] Reuters Area burned in 2019 forest fires in Indonesia exceeds 2018 – official

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry https://ppid.menlhk.go.id/siaran_pers/browse/2151

[2] As a result of 2015 forest fires, a report published by Harvard and Columbia University in 2016 estimated there were 100,300 premature deaths in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2016/09/smoke-2015-indonesian-fires-may-have-caused-100000-premature-deaths

[3] Tempo.co Over 900,000 People Suffer from ISPA due to Forest Fire Haze

[4] link to the briefer: https://www.greenpeace.org/southeastasia/press/3221/asean-haze-2019-the-battle-of-liability/

Contact:

Ratri Kusumohartono Jurukampanye Hutan Greenpeace Indonesia,

Tel 62-811-800-3717, email tkusumoh@greenpeace.org

Hikmat Soeriatanuwijaya, Media Campaigner Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Tel 62- 819-8888-29, email hsuriata@greenpeace.org

 

 

supporter