According to a new study, a smog outbreak in Southeast Asia last year may have caused premature 91,600 deaths in Indonesia, 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore. The haze is an annual problem caused by fires set in forest and on carbon-rich peatland in Indonesia to quickly and cheaply clear land for palm oil and pulpwood plantations.
Indonesian authorities have previously insisted they are stepping up haze-fighting efforts, through such actions as banning the granting of new land for palm oil plantations and establishing an agency to restore devastated peatlands. However, last year’s fires were among the worst since 1997 causing huge numbers to fall ill, including infants.
Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaign Yuyun Indradi said if nothing was done to change the situation, the killer haze would continue on its terrible activity.
The new study be published in journal Environmental Research Letters combines satellite data with models of health impacts from smoke exposure and readings from pollution monitoring stations, estimated that 100,300 had died prematurely due to last year’s fires across the three countries. Shannon Koplitz, a Harvard scientist who worked on the study, said she also hoped the model they had developed could help those involved with tackling the annual blazes make quick decisions “as extreme haze events are unfolding”.