Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Foreign companies under scrutiny for worsening air quality in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore

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Journalist IBP

Journalist

Mahinda Arkyasa

Editor

Interview

Several foreign companies are being scrutinized as potential contributors to deteriorating air quality in various regions of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Many of these companies, which operate plantations, are foreign companies and have been listed on foreign stock exchanges. However, the exact identity of these companies remains unclear.

The companies used fire to clear and open new land, consequently causing smoke to blanket large parts of Indonesia and Malaysia during the dry season. These fires pose health risks to the public and raise concerns for tourism operators and airlines.

Not the first incident

Previously, fires that caused haze to spread across the region in 2015 and 2019 scorched millions of hectares of land and resulted in record-breaking emissions, according to scientists.

During these periods, a number of foreign companies were sealed by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry due to land fires.

Notable cases include PT Sampoerna Agro in South Sumatra, which has foreign investment from Singapore. Additionally, companies with initials such as PT TPR, PT BHP, PT KS, PT BKI, PT SAM, PT RAJ, PT WAJ, PT LSI, PTPN VII, and PT SAI faced similar sanctions.

On the other side, the Malaysian government has sent a letter to the Indonesian government urging immediate action to address forest and land fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

Forest fires in Indonesia have led to worsened air quality in Malaysia. Muhamad Iqbal, spokesperson for the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed the content of the letter.

He stated that the letter described the recent air quality conditions in Malaysia. Malaysia is also prepared to cooperate in addressing the forest fires if the Indonesian government requires assistance.

Call to action

Meanwhile, as reported by Reuters, Malaysia has called on Indonesia and a group of Southeast Asian nations to take action as air quality deteriorates due to forest fires in the region. Malaysia’s Environment Minister, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, noted that air quality had reached unhealthy levels in some areas of the country in recent days.

“The Malaysian government has also sent letters to Malaysian-owned plantation companies operating in Indonesia to ensure they comply with the law and prevent burning,” said Nik Nazmi.

He called for collective action by ASEAN countries, either through legislation or agreements, to prevent annual haze. 

“I hope every country can be open to finding solutions because the impact of the haze is significant on the economy, tourism, and especially health,” he remarked.

Nik Nazmi acknowledged that Malaysia is still “seriously considering” legislation similar to Singapore’s, which holds companies accountable for air pollution. However, concerns exist about Malaysia’s ability to prosecute foreign-based polluters.

Journalist IBP

Journalist

Mahinda Arkyasa

Editor

 

Interview

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