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Legal means among options, but business links in Southeast Asia add to the haze
It is too early to say what economic and health impacts this year"s fires in Indonesia will have, but if previous years are anything to go by, the costs will be high.
It could take months to make an accurate assessment, said Helena Varkkey, senior lecturer for the Department of International and Strategic Studies at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
"You have to wait until the haze has petered down," she told China Daily. "Even then, quantification is difficult, especially one that takes into account all the countries involved."
Since the fires began on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in July, hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest cover have been burned out, sending a thick cloud of toxic haze across a wide area of Indonesia and blanketing Singapore and Malaysia.
The smoke has forced schools to close, disrupted trade, transport and tourism, and affected people"s health, especially for those with respiratory conditions.
The fires are not only having an impact on the lives of humans but also wildlife, particularly in Borneo, a home to Indonesia"s dwindling orangutan population.
The Indonesian government has drafted in thousands of military and civilian personnel to fight the fires-most of which were started deliberately to clear land for agriculture. More than 200 arrests have been made.
To get an idea of the potential cost of the fires, analysts have used data collected after the 2015 blazes. Between June and October that year, fires destroyed 2.6 million hectares of land in Indonesia, according to the World Bank.
The bank"s report The Cost of Fire, released in 2016, said the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, where most of the country"s fragile peatland can be found, were the hardest hit. Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of Borneo.
The pattern is the same this year, and the perpetrators again are mostly palm oil producers. Kalimantan and Sumatra account for 96 percent of Indonesia"s palm oil production.
Whereas the devastating fires burning in the Amazon rainforest were set largely for cattle ranches that feed the global beef supply, it is estimated that 80 percent of the fires in Indonesia are being set to clear land for palm oil plantations.
Palm oil is found in a huge number of products lining grocery store shelves-everything from infant formula and chips to shampoo and toothpaste. And much of the global supply comes from Indonesia, the world"s largest palm oil producer.
The World Bank reported the 2015 fires" cost to the Indonesian economy was around $16 billion, or 1.9 percent of GDP for the year. That is equivalent to twice the reconstruction cost following the Aceh tsunami in 2004.
Following the fires in 2015, Indonesia"s President Joko Widodo renewed the previous government"s moratorium on new conversion permits for primary forest and peatlands (mainly for palm oil production) and introduced other measures to cut down on land clearing, but these seem to have fallen short.
"Prevention is very important," Varkkey said. "Once a fire starts, especially on peat, where the majority of haze-producing fires are, it is very hard to put out, especially during this dry season."
Jayant Menon, lead economist with the Manila-based Asian Development Bank, said most of the firms involved in the burning are in the palm oil sector.
"Indonesia recently laid criminal charges against four unnamed but apparently prominent Malaysian and one Singaporean company, operating in West Kalimantan, among a total of 29 companies charged," he told China Daily.
"Malaysia"s primary industries minister has questioned the veracity of the charges laid against the Malaysian companies, further complicating efforts to identify and prosecute the perpetrators."
Menon said the fires have been a problem for decades, and the neighboring countries most affected-Singapore and Malaysia-also face significant economic and health costs.
While there have been some calls for tougher action on Indonesia for the fires, Menon believes diplomacy "is still the best way forward".
In 2014, the Singapore government enacted the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act that criminalizes conduct which causes or contributes to haze pollution in Singapore.
"It targets firms, not countries, and therefore is not confined to Singaporean firms, or firms in Singapore," Menon said.
"Apart from targeting firms that are involved in land clearing through burning in Indonesia, it also focuses on deterrence.
"Firms that are deemed to have not taken sufficient steps to prevent or stop the burning that results in transboundary pollution are also subject to penalty under this law."
He said the main challenge remains implementation of the law, since gathering evidence directly attributing the fires to the firms, and then the transboundary haze to those fires, is highly challenging.
While much of the blame is focused on big palm oil producers, Varkkey said, "Shifting cultivators practice slash-and-burn to clear land, but this is usually on smaller plots of land, and also not usually on the more sensitive and fire-prone peat soil. So I would say their contribution to the problem is there, but not so major."rubber band bracelets for boyscustom silicone wristbands canada no minimumpavlok wristband ukpersonalized anniversary braceletsbuy silicone wristbands online