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Forest Fires and Smoke Haze: Business before Health?

by: Marcus Phillips-

For more than twenty years the forests of Sumatra have been burned to clear land for farming, mostly this has been done to farm palm tree (kelapa sawit). Populations in three countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore- have had to suffer the smoke haze from this.

Community complaints about the smoke haze have been given ‘lip service’ by authorities. The business of sawit has been given priority over the health of people and conservation of the environment. The greed of businessmen and politicians for profit, power and status is stronger than ethic, moral and respect for other peoples health and the environment. Respitory infection from smoke haze has become a serious public health issue. But the farming of sawit has remained ‘business as usual’ (biznes seperti biasanya).

The media in Singapore and Malaysia complains about the smoke haze but their businessmen are also invested into sawit in Sumatra and Borneo.

But now the smoke haze has affected other business and tourism. Flights are cancelled and airports are closed, so if ‘biznes seperti biasanya’ is effected, action may be done by the politicians. Land can be cleared by other ways but it costs more. As the smoke haze becomes worse every year and more people have health problems and climate change gets worse and other business becomes effected there is more pressure on politicians to act to prevent forest fires.

How many billion must a businessman make? The answer is blowing in the wind… (MP)

The writer is a Lake Toba Region Tourism Observer; Editor-at-Large for BatakToday.com

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