Palm oil companies behind Singapore smog, Greenpeace says

Jun 22, 2013

Forest fires in Indonesia, which have cloaked Singapore in record-breaking smog, are raging on palm oil plantations owned by Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean companies, environmental group Greenpeace said Saturday.

Singapore's worst environmental crisis in more than a decade has seen the acrid smoke creep into people's flats and shroud residential blocks as well as downtown skyscrapers, and the island's prime minister has warned it could last weeks.

"NASA hotspot data in (Indonesia's) Sumatra over the past 10 days (11-21 June) has revealed hundreds of hotspots in concessions that are owned by Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean companies," the group said in a statement.

Singapore's smog index hit the critical 400 level on Friday, making it potentially life-threatening to the ill and elderly, a government monitoring site said. On Saturday morning, the reading was at 323, still in the "hazardous" zone.

Parts of Malaysia close to Singapore have also been severely affected by the smog this week.

"Fires across Sumatra are for millions of people in the region and destroying the climate. Palm oil producers must immediately deploy fire crews to extinguish these fires. But really cleaning up their act starts with adopting a zero policy," said Bustar Maitar, head of Indonesia's forest campaign.

Indonesia is the world's top producer of palm oil, which is used for many everyday items such as soap and biscuits.

The country's carbon-rich and have for decades been wiped out to extract the timber as well as to clear the land for and mining activities.

Indonesia last week sought to shift some of the blame for the raging forest fires on Malaysian and Singaporean palm oil companies that had invested in Indonesia.

Indonesia's Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said Friday that eight companies suspected to be behind the fires were under investigation, promising to reveal their names after the probe.

A senior presidential aide Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said Friday that the fires happened in concession areas belonging to two paper producers—Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL).

"It is very clear that the fires are in APP concessions and APRIL. We need to settle this matter," he told reporters.

APP, the world's third-largest paper producer said in a statement late Friday that "ground verification" detected "only seven points that are actually forest fire, affecting around 200 hectares of land".

"They are under and being controlled by approximately a thousand fire fighting crews and their team. Our team's preliminary investigation found that five of the fires were set by the community to clear land for crops and two cases are still under investigation," APP added.

APRIL denied the government findings, calling for a thorough investigation.

"APRIL has maintained a strict no-burn policy in its concessions since commencing operations in 1994," a company statement said.

"While there have been small number of fires within their concessions over the past three weeks, all of those fires were spread from fires that began outside our concession," it added.

Indonesia stepped up its fire-fighting efforts Friday by deploying aircraft to artificially create rain and to water bomb the blaze.

The haze crisis has caused a dramatic escalation in tensions between tiny Singapore and its vast neighbour, with the city-state repeatedly demanding that Jakarta steps up its efforts to put out the fires.

Explore further: Politics divide coastal residents' views of environment

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Singapore pollution reaches hazardous levels

Jun 21, 2013

This week Singapore's pollution standards index (PSI) reached 400, breaking all previous records and prompting government health warnings. A PSI reading above 200 indicates "very unhealthy" air, while a PSI ...

Record-setting Singapore haze hits 'hazardous' level

Jun 21, 2013

Indonesia on Friday deployed helicopters to artificially create rain in a bid to fight raging fires that have choked Singapore with smog, which is hitting record-breaking levels that pose a threat to the ...

Indonesia to use rain-making technology to stop fires

Jun 19, 2013

Indonesia plans to use weather changing technology to try to unleash torrents of rain and extinguish raging fires on Sumatra island that have cloaked neighbouring Singapore in thick haze, an official said ...

Indonesia sends planes to fight haze-causing fires

Jun 21, 2013

Air pollution in Singapore soared to record heights for a third consecutive day, as Indonesia dispatched planes and helicopters Friday to battle raging fires blamed for hazardous levels of smoky haze in three ...

Singapore haze at worst yet, Malaysia schools shut

Jun 20, 2013

Singapore urged people to remain indoors because of record air pollution Thursday as a smoky haze wrought by forest fires in neighboring Indonesia worsened dramatically. Nearby Malaysia closed 200 schools ...

Recommended for you

Politics divide coastal residents' views of environment

23 minutes ago

From the salmon-rich waters of Southeast Alaska to the white sand beaches of Florida's Gulf Coast to Downeast Maine's lobster, lumber and tourist towns, coastal residents around the U.S. share a common characteristic: ...

Earthworms as nature's free fertilizer

4 hours ago

Earthworm presence in the soil increases crop yield, shows a new study that was published this week in Scientific Reports. "This is not unexpected," says Jan Willem van Groenigen, associate professor in the ...

A success in managed pressure drilling

4 hours ago

As one of BP's top 40 wells globally (and the only UK well qualifying for that category in 2012), the successful delivery of the Harding field's 'Producer North East 2a' well (referred to as PNE2a) was crucial to the business. ...

Passion for the natural world clears the waters

4 hours ago

A toxic legacy has hung over the picturesque northern NSW coastal hamlet of Urunga for almost 40 years. Although now obscured by dense vegetation, the forest of dead melaleuca trees at the edge of a wetland ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
1 / 5 (7) Jun 22, 2013
Where did all the Reds go after the fall of International Communism?

The environmental movement (where else would one go if they desired to control the means of production?).
Czcibor
1 / 5 (4) Jun 22, 2013
So one group of greens, who love biofuels made of palm oil, fights with those greens that love forests?
Czcibor
1 / 5 (3) Jun 22, 2013
[double post]