Saturday, September 17, 2011

Indonesia smokes up its neighbors

Asia Sentinel: Despite numerous promises by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that it would stop, the burning of Indonesia’s rainforest is continuing, to the point where the haze is so thick that schools are closing, airplanes are being diverted and 60 percent of Malaysia is experiencing moderate pollution.

Indonesia’s immediate neighbors are expected to bring up the choking haze on Sept. 22 at a two-day meeting of environment ministers from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be held in Bangkok. The meeting is part of an annual series to discuss cross-boundary haze issues, so far to no avail.

In May, Yudhoyono signed a much-publicized two-year moratorium as part of a US$1 billion climate deal with Norway for emissions credits to cut global levels of greenhouse gases. However, Indonesia’s forestry ministry makes billions of dollars handing out permits to oil palm plantations to clear forest for oil palm production. The moratorium has been described as a disaster by environmentalists who say it is full of loopholes that favor the oil palm companies.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, the country’s fourth largest export category, contributing 8.54 percent of export earnings to the country’s coffers. In addition, although agriculture provides only 15.3 percent of gross domestic product, it employs 38.3 percent of the population. Indonesia is also the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, much of it from illegal the logging of primary forest and burning the remains and the peatlands that undergird the forest....

NASA image of haze over Malaysia

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