No sooner has the haze from Indonesia descended on Singapore and Malaysia than the green vultures in the form of Greenpeace swooped in to pick the bones of the issue dry to suit their agenda.
Make no bones about it. This haze, although an annual event during the dry season when Indonesian small farmers resort to slashing and burning to clear land for the next planting, was probably the worst that the city state of Singapore and Malaysia had ever encountered.
At 12pm on June 21, 2013 the Air Pollution Index hit 401 in Singapore, the highest in the country’s history. The following two days, it was Malaysia's turn to choke. In the coast town of Muar which is two hundred kilometers away from Singapore, the Air Pollution Index hit 750 on 23 June, way past the hazardous level pegged at 100, which makes the haze life threatening to the ill and the elderly.
The situation was so bad that Malaysia had to declare an emergency in the towns of Muar and Ledang with schools being shuttered and pharmacies quickly ran out of face masks. Even those staying indoors with air conditioners switched on complained that the haze particulates were making their way indoor.
Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was gracious enough to extend an apology to Indonesia’s neighbors and partners in the ASEAN regional grouping, giving his assurance that action would be taken to rein in the forest fires and that the culprits would be taken to court and prosecuted.
That should have been a healthy first step towards ameliorating a difficult situation in the spirit of neigborly cooperation.
However, it did not take long for green opportunists like Greenpeace to wade into the issue by issuing a press release palm oil companies were responsible setting the fires responsible for the haze. This is the self-same Greenpeace that had published a report in November 2007 called “How the palm oil industry is cooking the climate”. In this report, Greenpeace had alleged that Indonesia is the world’s third largest emitter of GHG due largely to palm oil plantations planting on peat soil implying as it does now that palm oil plantations are responsible for that unflattering stat.
What the report fails to point out is that Indonesia has a culture of slash and burn for land clearing. It has been practiced since time immemorial for generations. Malaysia is the world's second largest palm oil producer and yet the problem of slash and burn does not exist there and the explanation is simple – Malaysia does not have a culture of slash and burn.
In trying to exploit the current geo-political problem by casting stones at palm oil companies, Greenpeace has remained true to form. They stop at nothing so long as the funding gravy train continues to be replenished, to hell with the truth or the consequences!
Indonesian law enforcement had arrested individuals such as a former state bank director who had set fire to his smallholding which quickly spread out of control to the surrounding forest. It is well known that palm oil concession agreements often specify that 20% of the land alienated under the concession has to be set aside for smallholders. It is these smallholders who often resort to slashing and burning to clear the land for planting. THE END