Forest fires in Indonesia last year cost the country at least $16 billion in economic losses, equivalent to 1.9 per cent of its GDP, according to the World Bank.
The haze had “a direct and palpable impact” on the nation’s agriculture, tourism, forestry, trade and transport. It is an almost annual ritual, but the smoke from these fires – mainly caused by illegal burning in the tropical rain forests – also blanket Singapore and parts of Malaysia and even Thailand. It can be bad enough to cause school closings, respiratory distress and flight cancellations.
Brunei’s ASEAN meetings over the past days have been the stage of heated arguments and have shown the diplomatic rift that has opened between the three affected countries, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. A final solution should be immediately sought for the problem of forest fires that occur regularly during the dry season in Indonesia to clear land for plantations but have never been as disastrous as now. There have also been less noticed bushfires in Sarawak that affected Brunei as well over the past days.