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Water sharing in Indonesia key to smothering transboundary haze

34 11 10

WITH 2019 expected to bring hotter and drier-than-usual El Niño weather conditions to Southeast Asia, concerns are heightened about a recurrence of the 2015 haze crisis. The episode of chronic transboundary air pollution that choked the region in a blanket of acrid smoke had severe health, economic and environmental impacts.

Indonesia, a major haze-producing country, claims to be better prepared for the next intense dry season, expected to start in June this year. Indonesia’s confidence is linked to major land reforms undertaken in the aftermath of the 2015 haze crisis. In 2016, President Joko Widodo introduced a moratorium on burning, draining and deforesting 4.9 million hectares of peatlands, amending a 2014 regulation.

The primary source of transboundary haze comes from biomass burning in peat swamps. When naturally saturated peat swamps are drained for plantation agriculture, they become highly flammable in the dry season months of June to September, increasing the risk of biomass fires that release massive quantities of carbon into the atmosphere.

SEE ALSO: Asian Games 2018 weather forecast: Cloudy with a chance of haze

While Indonesia is taking strides to restore the health of degraded peat ecosystems, current legislation contains major oversights that are igniting new problems in government efforts to combat transboundary haze. There is a critical lack of knowledge about the role of water in preventing and suppressing deep peat fires.

At the same time, the government’s zero-burning policy invalidates indigenous knowledge of controlled burning practices that is........

© Asian Correspondent