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

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

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.

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Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail kelvin.peh@gmail.com
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Oryx
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