Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

South-east Asia's forest fires: blazing the policy trail

  • Ding Li Yong (a1) and Kelvin S.-H. Peh (a2)

Transboundary haze pollution as a result of indiscriminate land clearance by fire has significant health and economic impacts on member states of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN). Meanwhile the impact of the associated carbon emissions, ecological disturbance and biodiversity loss extends well beyond South-east Asia. This is despite the fact there are relatively well-established mechanisms to combat forest fires, and policy-level solutions have existed on paper for years. Although the fires are mostly in Indonesian territory, the involvement of multiple hierarchies of stakeholders in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore adds complexity to the quest for lasting solutions. A more robust approach is required from the region's governments, especially in instilling accountability among large companies, and this is feasible without increasing political tensions within ASEAN. Indonesia's ratification of the Haze Agreement is a significant development but needs to be complemented with actions at the local (e.g. grassroot initiatives in forest protection, firefighting, policing of illegal clearance practices), national (e.g. centralizing ministry-level control of forestry resources) and regional levels (e.g. implementing compliance mechanisms and legal standards to tackle haze and forest fires). Ultimately, actions to combat forest fires may also help secure the long-term conservation of biodiversity-rich peat swamps. Rather than being a source of discord, combating haze pollution could become South-east Asia's defining environmental project.

Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D.F. Cleary (2003) An examination of scale of assessment, logging and ENSO-induced fires on butterfly diversity in Borneo. Oecologia, 135, 313321.

L.M. Curran , I. Caniago , G.D. Paoli , D. Astianti , M. Kusneti , M. Leighton (1999) Impact of El Niño and logging on canopy tree recruitment in Borneo. Science, 286, 21842188.

S.J. Davies & L. Unam (1999) Smoke-haze from the 1997 Indonesian forest fires: effects on pollution levels, local climate, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and tree photosynthesis. Forest Ecology and Management, 124, 137144.

D.L.A. Gaveau , M.A. Salim , K. Hergoualc'h , B. Locatelli , S. Sloan , M. Wooster (2014) Major atmospheric emissions from peat fires in Southeast Asia during non-drought years: evidence from the 2013 Sumatran fires. Scientific Reports, 4, 6112.

A. Heil & J.G. Goldammer (2001) Smoke-haze pollution: a review of the 1997 episode in Southeast Asia. Regional Environmental Change, 2, 2437.

M.A. Hiller , B.C. Jarvis , H. Lisa , L.J. Paulson , E.H.B. Pollard & S.A. Stanley (2004) Recent trends in illegal logging and a brief discussion of their causes: a case study from Gunung Palung National Park, Indonesia. Journal of Sustainable Forestry, 19, 181212.

F.H. Johnston , S.B. Henderson , Y. Chen , J.T. Randerson , M. Marlier , R.S. DeFries (2012) Estimated global mortality attributable to smoke from landscape fires. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120, 695701.

H. Kobayashi , T. Matsunaga & A. Hoyano (2005) Net primary production in Southeast Asia following a large reduction in photosynthetically active radiation owing to smoke. Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L02403.

D.J. Lohman , D. Bickford & N.S. Sodhi (2007) The burning issue. Science, 316, 376.

M.E. Marlier , R.S. DeFries , A. Voulgarakis , P.L. Kinney , J.T. Randersen , D.T. Shindell (2013) El Niño and health risks from landscape fire emissions in southeast Asia. Nature Climate Change, 3, 131136.

D. Murdiyarso & E.S. Adiningsih (2007) Climate anomalies, Indonesian vegetation fires and terrestrial carbon emissions. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 12, 101112.

N. Myers , R.A. Mittermeier , C.G. Mittermeier , G.A.B. da Fonseca & J. Kent (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature, 403, 853858.

P. Nguitragool (2011) Negotiating the haze treaty. Asian Survey, 51, 356378.

S.E. Page , F. Siegert , J.O. Rieley , H.-D.V. Boehm , A. Jaya & S. Limin (2002) The amount of carbon released from peat and forest fires in Indonesia during 1997. Nature, 420, 6165.

M.R. Posa , L.S. Wijedasa & R.T. Corlett (2011) Biodiversity and conservation of tropical peat swamp forests. BioScience, 61, 4957.

E. Quah (2002) Transboundary pollution in Southeast Asia: the Indonesian fires. World Development, 30, 429441.

N. Sastry (2002) Forest fires, air pollution and mortality in South-east Asia. Demography, 39, 123.

J.F. Slik , R.W. Verburg & P.J. Keßler (2002) Effects of fire and selective logging on the tree species composition of lowland dipterocarp forest in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Biodiversity and Conservation, 11, 8598.

M.G. van Nieuwstadt & D. Sheil (2005) Drought, fire and tree survival in a Borneo rain forest, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Journal of Ecology, 93, 191201.

A. Varma (2003) The economics of slash and burn: a case study of the 1997–1998 Indonesian forest fires. Ecological Economics, 46, 159171.

S.A. Wich , E. Meijaard , A.J. Marshall , S. Husson , M. Ancrenaz , R.C. Lacy (2008) Distribution and conservation status of the orang-utan (Pongo spp.) on Borneo and Sumatra: how many remain? Oryx, 42, 329339.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 127 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 363 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.