UPDATE 7/11/2103: Worst Ever! Sumatra Burning — and Singapore and Malaysia Choking — Again – The Annual Ritual

Sumatra Fires 2013


(Thanks to the top notch enviro-journalism site mongabay.com for this story.)

It’s happening again. Dry season winds push smoke from the fires of deforestation in Sumatra to nearby countries, like the choking Singapore and Malaysia. See the map above for the hundreds of hotspots flaring NOW.

At some point, Indonesia has got to get its environmental shit together. On the one hand, a few days ago its president tours the venerable Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, touting how successful the country’s become in turning its own environmental ship around. (See what I did there?)

“As a developing country, Indonesia needs economic development, but of course it must be environmentally sustainable. Although, we are facing several challenges, we are committed to working on both. I want to guarantee my grandchildren a clean and peaceful environment in the future.”

— Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Available at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/Indonesian-President-meets-Greenpeace-leader-on-the-Rainbow-Warrior-welcomes-legacy-of-environmental-protection/

And the country also vows to extend its two year-long deforestation moratorium (to receive $1 billion from Norway).

Yet, on the other hand, Indonesia — whether it’s due to graft, corruption, an emasculating failure to enforce its own laws, or out of sheer greed — can’t seem to stop the ILLEGAL forest fires raging in Sumatra. Or they just refuse to do it.

Sadly, this is an annual ritual (?!) — that’s how much Indonesia sucks when it comes to the environment. Every year, the dry season winds push the (illegal) forest fire smoke from Sumatra across the Malacca Strait into Singapore and Malaysia. EVERY FREAKING YEAR! And still they don’t see these blazes — and ensuing lung-hacking, polluting haze — as an ominous signal that they must do something — anything — to halt the criminals who set the flames in the first place. The worst season was in 1997-8, but this year’s bad too.

Singapore’s air pollution index is at the worst level since 2006, when Sumatra last experienced severe fires. The city-state’s Pollutant Standards Index on Monday topped 150, well above the “unhealthy” threshold of 100, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA) website.

Still Indonesia does squat.

More sad to me, than some members of the godforsaken human race choking on the very forest fire smoke that their own greedy species torched in the first place, is what this annual deforestation fire and smoke really means: less and less habitat available for the incredible Indonesian environmental biodiversity. Less forest for orangutans. Less forest for humans who depend on the rainforest for their sustenance. Less forest cover period. All for what? More palm oil development. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Here’s how unbelievably horrific and dystopian the ritualistic fires looked last year:


And the really sick part of it all is that Indonesia — instead of enforcing its own laws and shutting down the palm oil companies, who, let’s be honest, are probably paying off the local police and forest officials to look the other way (given the soul-sucking corruption among the Indonesians) — just points the finger of blame elsewhere.

“We hope the governments of Malaysia and Singapore will tell their investors to adopt proper measures so we can solve this problem together,” said Hadi Daryanto, the second-in-command at Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry.Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0617-haze-returns-to-singapore-2013.html#e5c7b5giZ0QlsMHj.99

I’m just so sick of Indonesia. They’ll just screw their own country (and the world) over for palm oil money. (The West already did it for centuries. Why not expect it in Southeast Asia?)

Humans suck. I hate the human race overall. And I think even less of the vile, sinful and immoral palm oil companies.

UPDATE: 6/20/2013: Well, it’s official. The conflagration caused by Indonesian’s inability to stop deforestation on Sumatra has led to the worst air pollution ever. The latest Pollutions Standards index reading of 400(!) blew right past the 150 recorded earlier this week.

A clueless, deaf-ear Indonesian official again just made excuses when faced with the outcry from Singapore:

“Singapore should not act like children, making all that noise.”

— Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono.

Oh yeah, then there’s this:

Indonesian officials have defended their response to the haze, saying the government is educating farmers about alternatives to traditional slash-and-burn agriculture. Some Indonesian officials have also suggested that some fires might be blamed on Singaporean and Malaysian companies involved in Indonesia’s plantation industry.

IS THIS NOT ENOUGH TO GET INDONESIA TO HALT THE FIRES!? Again, this happens every goddamned year! Geezus!

While I feel sorry for the people having to suck this shit down (and for the indigent farmers who may not know better and are just scraping by financially), I really weep for Indonesia’s biodiversity and the critically endangered species who are suffering too (orangutans?) and losing their habitat, football field-sizes at at time. Absolutely outrageous and sickening.

Today’s story: http://weather.yahoo.com/singapore-haze-worst-yet-malaysia-schools-shut-062936808.html

Now they’re talking about cloud seeding to bring rains to douse the historically-bad flames.

Indonesia’s forestry ministry said it intended to use cloud seeding to try to induce rain on the affected area of Sumatra.


Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said he had identified five companies behind the forest fires, but refused to name them.

But I will name some — and there’s no shock that sinister, evil Sinar Mas is one of them (from published sources):

Indonesia on Friday blamed eight companies, including Singapore’s Sinar Mas and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL), for fires raging on its island of Sumatra that have sent hazardous levels of smog to neighbouring Singapore.

“The majority of hotspots in Riau (province) are inside APRIL and Sinar Mas concessions,” senior presidential aide Kuntoro Mangkusubroto told Reuters.

The environment minister said not all eight companies were Singapore based, but declined to name the rest of them.


UPDATE:  6/24/2013:  Reports reveal the 8 guilty palm oil companies.  They probably all provide palm oil to big companies, like Wilmar, and, yes, many of them are members of the RSPO, so we know that certification isn’t worth the paper it’s written on (if we didn’t know already).

The eight companies implicated are Langgam Inti Hiberida, Bumi Rakksa Sejati, Tunggal Mitra Plantation, Udaya Loh Dinawi, Adei Plantation, Jatim Jaya Perkasa, Multi Gambut Industri, and Mustika Agro Lestari.


UPDATED 7/11/2013:  Well, now that the (ahem) smoke has cleared, there’s news from the investigations on this year’s fires.

A new mapping tool based on NASA satellite data confirms that the majority of  fires that drove the recent haze over Sumatra and Malaysia were concentrated in  deforested peatlands and scrub, rather than natural forest areas…

…It also provides before and after pictures of areas affected by fires  in Riau, where the bulk of hotspots were detected last month. CIFOR  says that unlike the major fires in the region in 1982-1983, 1997-1998 and 2006,  few fires were located in natural forest areas. Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0710-haze-peatland-burn-scars.html#wWSHzG8sivKoozTc.99

So maybe there’s at least a little bit of good news (no major loss of high conservation value rainforests) amid the conflagration.  But the peatlands are necessary as sinks for carbon too, so let’s not all start giving each other [from Pulp Fiction] yet.

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