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Culprits behind Singapore’s haze identified

Culprits behind Singapore’s haze identified
Photo taken from the World Agroforestry Centre website

The scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre have identified the parties responsible for the haze that has covered Singapore recently – and it’s not necessarily who everyone thinks.

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For decades, small and large scale farmers in Sumatra – and their annual habit of clearing their plots using fire – have been blamed for the haze that has affected parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.

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This issue made headlines recently when Singapore experienced record-breaking, hazardous haze, reaching a Pollution Standard Index of around 401 (see related story)

The World Agroforestry Centre studied land conversion in Sumatra and found out that, aside from the small and large-scale farmers in Riau province on Sumatra, mid-level entrepreneurs are the ones responsible for clearing through burning.

According to the scientists, mid-level entrepreneurs – comprised of local land investors – acquire lands under informal rules at village levels. They then use the land for other activities – oil palm plantations, industrial timber and logging – other than agriculture. The scientists pointed out that the problem with mid-level entrepreneurs is that they operate outside the government system, making it difficult to regulate them.

“They bring in their own labour to clean the land for oil palm, regardless of the land’s formal government status and in the absence of any permits to do so,” said one of the scientists, Suseno Budidarsono.

The scientists suggest adjusting policies and policing In order to reduce annual fires and the subsequent haze, emphasizing that plantation companies need to be held accountable for the fires within their boundaries to help reduce the problem.

Findings of the scientists’ study show that almost half of the fire “hot spots” in Riau province occur on land with legal permits for large-scale operations such as those of industrial timber, oil palm, and logging. The other half occur in areas which have been slated for conservation or non-production, making them part of illegal activities. – EcoSeed Staff



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