2015 Southeast Asian Haze
A deadly haze in Southeast Asia’s most populous region caused more than 100,000 premature deaths in 2015, prompting calls for action to tackle the deadly haze.
The new estimate, based on complex analytical models, is well above official figures from the authorities, which show that only 19 deaths are from Indonesia.
Tito Chiang, head of Thailand’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, said the regional government had been instructed to find new ways to prevent and fight wildfires, including redirecting village fund programs to boost economic growth in underdeveloped villages. More than 1.5 million hectares of forest have been burned in the last two years by prolonged drought, high temperatures, heavy rainfall and strong winds.
In Indonesia, 1.6 million hectares have been burned, making it one of the most polluted countries in the region.
Researchers from Harvard and Columbia universities reported that more than 1,000 people, mostly children, were likely to die from respiratory illnesses caused by the haze. This figure is actually conservative, since it only takes into account deaths that could have occurred within a year of exposure to the haze.
The Southeast Asian haze crisis of 2015, when haze over Indonesia affected millions of people in several countries in the region. Respiratory diseases have been reported in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Indonesia is accused by many in Malaysia of being responsible for what they believe is the worst air pollution in Southeast Asia.
The smoky haze from the fires, exacerbated by heavy use of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels, has threatened to spark a diplomatic conflict between Indonesia and its neighbors.
A similar haze occurred earlier this year, when smoke spread across the region, covering Singapore and much of Malaysia. The huge plume of smoke and smog currently covering Southeast Asia, a seasonal event known as haze, could be the worst in history, according to NASA scientists.
Indonesian palm oil producers, who burn forests in remote areas to clear land for planting, cause the haze every year. Cities in the region have been polluted for weeks because of disruptions to the economy and transport.
It is an annual event that has steadily increased in intensity over the last two decades. This year’s fires were the largest ever recorded in Southeast Asia and the second largest in the world, with more than 1.5 million hectares this year.
During the dry season (July to October) fires were lit in the region, causing a crisis of air pollution. Burning forests to cut down on agricultural land cheaply reduced the smoking and burning landscape.