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  Straits Times Forum 18 Oct 06
Get the world's rich countries to buy Indonesia's forests and police them
Letter from Margo McCutcheon (Ms)

Straits Times Forum 18 Oct 06
The haze won't go away. It's the way Indonesia works that is the problem
Letter from Chin Hee Weng

I have observed the haze problem since 1990 after I worked in a large logging and plantation company in Indonesia. I won't be amazed that the annual haze problem will continue for many more years.

There are two main groups of people who cause the haze problem.

One is the companies which have large land concessions. These companies engage contractors for land clearing and planting after the logging is done. Logs and branches which are less than 24cm in diameter, as well as some big logs, are left behind after the logging.

It is time-consuming for the land-clearing contractors to take away these logs as they need the permits as well as equipment to do the job. They are usually less equipped than the logging contractors.

The easiest way to prepare the land for the plantation companies is to use matches and petrol. Tree stumps are also burned in this way. This group which produces the haze is relatively easy to identify as clear responsibility can be established by the land boundaries.

Over the years the number of companies involved in the open burning method of their contractors have been reduced drastically because the companies slap severe penalties on the contractors who do this.

The second group of people who produce the haze are small landowners. This group is not easy to deal with as civic consciousness is virtually non-existent. The farmers burn the forests as they need the land for planting and the ashes act as a fertiliser.

After the crop is harvested, the land is left barren and the shrubs as well as trees will grow again, only to be slashed and burned in the next season as a new cycle begins.

Bringing the farmers to the municipal authorities or police has little effect as enforcement action is often undermined by bribery.

Straits Times Forum 18 Oct 06
Get the world's rich countries to buy Indonesia's forests and police them
Letter from Margo McCutcheon (Ms)

According to the Indonesian authorities, the main culprits involved in burning the country's forests are traditional small-scale farmers.

This is not true. It's the influential plantation industry that's incinerating Sumatra and Borneo.

Those who have visited these places, rafted down the rivers and watched orang utans swinging through the trees will appreciate the horrific scale of a tragedy that's being caused by a few greedy businessmen.

Why should a tiny but powerful elite in Indonesia be allowed to burn down one of earth's last green lungs, smother South-east Asia in smog and load the atmosphere with more greenhouse gases?

Thanks to big businesses everywhere, our children are in danger of inheriting a world that will be unable to support life. So what's the answer?

Maybe the world's rich countries should get together, buy the remaining rainforests and then work out a way to police them, possibly with help from the United Nations.

If something isn't done, we are going to find ourselves without a home soon. The scary thing is, we've only got one home to lose.

Related articles on Singapore: Haze
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