Blanketing large parts of Malaysia, haze has affected all of us regardless of age, backgrounds and differences.

We asked for your questions (on Instagram) – and decided we’d cover our bases by posting it on all our channels.

 

Haze in Kuala Lumpur. © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace

Petronas tower covered by haze in Kuala Lumpur city, Malaysia. Malaysia is hit by haze from forest fires that came from Indonesia Borneo island and Sumatra. © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace

 

1. Why and what’s happening?
The fires are a man-made disasters that could have been prevented.

It’s mainly caused as forests are being fragmented and cleared,  and peatlands are being drained to make way for large scale plantations, primarily for palm oil plantations or pulp wood in Southeast Asia.

The annual dry season combined with El Niño that causes drought has exacerbated the risk of creating catastrophic fire outbreaks.

 

Forest Fires in Jekan Raya, Central Kalimantan. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

Forest and plantation fires in sub-district Jekan Raya, Palangkaraya city, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Indonesia’s government has declared a state emergency in six provinces at Sumatra and Kalimantan island as the forest fires in Indonesia get bigger. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

 

2. Is there anything we can do to prevent this… for example an agreement with Indonesia?
Transparency is key in fighting deforestation. The government should allow companies to publish maps of their plantations.

This would help responsible companies prove they are clean and not involved in destroying forests and put companies that are still deforesting under the spotlight, identifying those who are responsible for setting peatland and forests on fire.

 

3. When will it end?
We are expecting the fires in Indonesia to continue until the end of October as the dry spell continues and the rainy season will only start in November.

This year, Greenpeace Indonesia firefighters have been deployed to suppress fires since the first week of August in Central Kalimantan. Initially plans were for them to be deployed starting early September to October, but it was moved forward to August as communities we were talking to were overwhelmed and asking for support to put out fires in mid-July.

 

Haze in Penang, Malaysia. © Nandakumar S. Haridas / Greenpeace

The haze covered the air of Penang city, Malaysia. Malaysia is hit by haze from forest fires from Indonesian Borneo island and Sumatra. © Nandakumar S. Haridas / Greenpeace © Nandakumar S. Haridas / Greenpeace

 

4. Is there a way to stop it?
The best solution to ensure that forests and peatland fires will not happen in years to come is the total protection of forests and peatlands.

This is the solution which Greenpeace has been actively campaigning for over the past 10 years. If forest and peatland destruction no longer occurs, then this – in addition to action to restore degraded land – will be the best safeguard against forests and peatlands burning in the future.

One of the ways to implement full protection of forest and peatlands is through law enforcement. This means government should be persistent and hold companies who are violating forest/peatlands protection regulations.

 

5. What is supposed to be expected from the government to solve this issue?
Large scale forest fires are still happening due to the lack of law enforcement, monitoring and effective sanctions for those involved. The government needs to urgently step up its capacity to improve that situation.

Another determining factor is the lack of reliable, coherent, transparent and publicly accessible data and maps that help identify who is responsible for setting peatland and forests on fire.

 

6. Why only close school? What about office? Office worker also breathe using nose and mouth.
Agreed! But children are prioritised mainly because they are more susceptible to the effects of haze. And it’s is in the government’s discretion to decide.

 

Haze in Kuala Lumpur. © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace

A man wears a mask as he walks passes Sultan Abdul Samad building that is covered by haze in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Many forest areas and palm oil concessions in Indonesia were burned this year including the concession belonging to Malaysian and Singaporean companies. © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace

 

7. Are reusable cloth masks good enough?
We recommend using the N95 masks as protection against some particle pollutants, but it would be best to consult medical professionals about this.

 

8. Any law in Malaysia and Indonesia to punish these people?
Malaysia is a signatory of the 2002 Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

But so far only Singapore has enacted a Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, which empowers its government to punish perpetrators that add to the haze domestically, and allows individuals to take legal action against private companies abroad.

Our Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir announced that the government is mulling a new law allowing them to hold accountable Malaysian companies with estates abroad that contribute to the haze.

 

Haze in Penang, Malaysia. © Nandakumar S. Haridas / Greenpeace

A boat floats on the sea as the surrounding area is covered by haze in Penang, Malaysia. © Nandakumar S. Haridas / Greenpeace © Nandakumar S. Haridas / Greenpeace

 

9. Not a question but 70% of the amazon rainforest deforestation is because of animal agriculture.
True. 70% of the amazon rainforest’s deforestation is a result of clearing land for agricultural use to grow animal feed and cattle farming.

But in Southeast Asia the main contributors to deforestation are pulp and paper as well as palm oil plantations.

 

10. What can we do to help?
As an organisation, we believe in #PeoplePower and how we can call for transparency from our government to allow companies to publish maps of their plantations.

This would help responsible companies prove they are clean and not involved in destroying forests, while putting companies that are still deforesting under the spotlight.

 

Haze in Kuala Lumpur. © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace

A man takes a selfie with the Kuala Lumpur skyline and Petronas Twin Towers in the background covered by haze in Kuala Lumpur city, Malaysia. © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace

 

11. Do you think ‘ASEAN way’ effective and still relevant in managing the transboundary haze?
One of the most effective ways to manage transboundary haze is to halt it at its source by implementing the full protection of forests and peatlands through law enforcement.

This means the government should be persistent, and hold companies who are violating forest/peatlands protection regulations accountable. This also has to be a concerted effort within Southeast Asia.

 

12. How does the national and regional interests influence this issue?
Palm oil is one of the most profitable land uses in the tropics and both Malaysia and Indonesia are the biggest palm oil producers worldwide.

Palm oil can significantly contribute to our national economies, driving rapid economic growth. But there are also irresponsible companies still involved in deforestation.

The refusal of these companies to take responsibility and action has led the situation to escalate even further. That’s why transparency and accountability are essential in tackling the issue.

 

Haze in Kuala Lumpur. © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace

A man looks at Petronas towers through the haze that is surrounding Kuala Lumpur city, Malaysia. Malaysia was hit by haze from forest fires that came from Indonesia Borneo island and Sumatra. © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace © Joshua Paul / Greenpeace

 

13. How are our actions causing the haze?
Deforestation is a result of unsustainable palm oil production, and the root cause of the haze.

But you can also demand for palm oil to be deforestation free so your actions, instead of contributing to the haze, can prevent forest fires and deforestation.

 

14. It’s hard to change peoples mindsets…those who started the fire.
Too true. But that’s why strong enforcement is necessary and this can only happen with transparency so the culprits can be held responsible.

 

15. Is there still fire over Kalimantan?
We are expecting the fires in Indonesia to continue until the end of October, as the dry spell continues and the rainy season will only start in November.

This year, Greenpeace Indonesia firefighters have been deployed to suppress fires since the first week of August in Central Kalimantan. Initially plans were for them to be deployed starting early September to October, but it was moved forward to August as communities that we were talking to in mid-July were already overwhelmed, asking for support to put out fires.

Forest Fires in Central Kalimantan. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

Greenpeace Indonesia Forest Fire Prevention (FFP) team members extinguish the fires at plantation and forest in sub-district Jekan Raya, Palangkaraya city, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Indonesia’s government has declared a state emergency in six provinces at Sumatra and Kalimantan island as the forest fires in Indonesia get bigger. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

 

Most of us start out with the tendency to point fingers; to find a scapegoat; to push the buck rather than face the painful reality of our situation.

But…it’s not all bad. It means we have the power to change our reality and to change our current situation – but only if we ACT NOW and ACT TOGETHER.