Published: Thursday 31 August 2000

IndonesiaForest fires raging in various parts of Indonesia have led to the country's air pollution reaching hazardous level. The smog has spread to parts of neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The fire has been allegedly set by farmers and plantation owners to clear the bushes.

Antung Deddy of the Environmental Management Agency in Bapedal says that evacuations may be necessary in some areas along the border of Riau and North Sumatra provinces because the air pollution index there has reached dangerous levels. The residents must get ready to wear masks, warn experts.

The government authorities admit that they do not have any strategy for extinguishing the blaze. They are not ready to release data regarding the seriousness of the situation, fearing that the information may harm the tourism industry. This has infuriated environmentalists and opposition parties. "In this era of information technology, it is useless for the government to think that it can mislead foreign tourists into believing that there is pure and clean air in the country, although air pollution index readings show otherwise," says Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.