The Haze – it makes for a very good title for a movie, short film or even a museum (The Lourve) but it’s not. It’s a problem that Singaporeans and Malaysians have to suffer with choking up respiratory problems and eye irritation.
The cause of it?
Forest fire burning in Sumatra, Indonesia.
In fact, the forest fires are taking place in the town where my parents are currently staying at but lucky them because they don’t have to face the problems we face due to the monsoon winds and since our house is far off from the forests (3 hour drive), there’s nothing to worry about.
The problem with the forest fires has been around over the past decade and it has never been rectified by the Indonesian authorities. Having understood the life of Indonesians in that province, they are poor and do not have access to the technological advancement or have the financial capacity to find viable solutions towards clearing the forests other than through the most cost effective method, which unfortunately, is a hazard to the health of others a few hours away.
Whilst the Health Ministers of the ASEAN community have been discussing and helping to find solutions towards the burgeoning forest fire problem, those solutions have more or less, perhaps been stop-gap measures feasible only to contain and manage situations as they occur.
If there’s anything to be done that can eradicate or perhaps even minimize the issue at hand in the long-term would be through education and government subsidy.
Farmers there are educated enough to know about the harmful effects caused by the forest fires but they are uneducated in the areas of alternatives to clearing of land aside from forest fires. Should the Indonesian government not be able to find experts to educate the farmers on alternative measures, the ASEAN members (Singapore and Malaysia) need to take on a more proactive role to step in to address the issue.
Currently, ASEAN members are taking on reactive measures convening through meetings to discuss on managing the issue. A day spent at the meeting would have been better spent on sourcing or providing assistance to Indonesia to solve the problem on hand. The Indonesians then would deal with how best to integrate the solutions accorded.
Forest fires, are a seasonal issue and there would have been a trend towards which months would reflect on the occurence of the haze. ASEAN members need to take the proactive measure to counter-check with Indonesia to pre-empt them in ensuring that proper measures have been taken to educate the farmers before the burning takes place.
Education, is of course the first key towards solving the problem. ASEAN members being proactive is the next step. Government agencies can’t keep relying on Non-Government Organisations to keep stepping in to assist just because they don’t have red tape to work with.
Having satisfied the first criteria towards educating the farmers on alternatives to clear land other than burning forests, the Indonesian government needs to be able to provide the subsidy to help meet that alternative.
Farmers in that province are generally poor to begin with and with alternatives being introduced also means the need to spend money on alternative technology. Alternative technology may cost more than the current one which they have been using for years and thus may not be cost effective for them – they are afterall, running a business.
The Indonesian government will definitely need to provide the subsidy to fund the alternative measures to help ease the financial burden of the farmers. Should the government not be able to provide absolute financial assistance, measures can be put in place to ensure that the farmers will be able to own that alternative technology for their own use through long-term instalments or make the alternative technology available for rent.
Such measures of course are idealistic and with how broad and large corruption reigns in Indonesia despite measures taken by President Yudhoyono, there are bound to be under table deals taken by provincial government officers which may undermine the whole operation but that can be dealth with in the court of law, what is most important now is that Indonesia needs to take the first step and ASEAN (Singapore and Malaysia) needs to rally behind in close support.
But these are plans that will take time but nonetheless are workable and would be a good start.
Seriously, I can’t stay out long in these hazy days and it’s definitely not advisable for me to do sporting activities.