As I write this, the air pollution indices in Malaysia, Singapore and even Southern Thailand continue to rise as the smoke from the raging forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia are blown in the general direction of the three countries mentioned earlier. Reports of haze reaching the Southern Philippines also popped up in my news feed in the last few days with filthy skies reducing visibility at Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro.
Back in September, I went on a short trip to Bangkok with my mother. Coming back to Kuala Lumpur, 30 minutes before landing- the haze was so bad that you could actually smell it inside the cabin while we were still airborne!
For months, the haze choked the residents of these countries with Indonesia itself being the hardest hit. The smoke comes from the annual slash and burn practices done by farmers and corporations clearing forests in Indonesia to make way for more palm oil plantations. Why the government of Indonesia allows this environmental disaster to happen is a multi-billion dollar question. Forests being cleared at an alarming rate, and with this comes the massive destruction of natural habitats for many flora and fauna of Indonesia. The fires have contributed significantly to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and certainly does not help ameliorate climate change. The air pollution from the transboundary haze is driving schools and airports to shut down, but it is also endangering millions of lives in ASEAN putting a strain on public healthcare as well as productivity. Overall, the quality of life is decreasing.
The symptoms that can occur when in contact with haze:
- Eye Irritation
- Skin Irritation
- Breathing problems: shortness of breath, chest discomfort or tightness, cough
- Sore throat and dryness
With no end in sight and with no lasting solutions in place, tourism and travel is set to be affected.
If you are traveling (or living) in haze-affected areas, it is important to remember a few things.
You can also keep track the Pollution Index by visiting these links:
We hope that governments find a way to stop these extremely destructive slash and burn practices by companies and farmers in Indonesia. What is progress if we can’t even live?
Dave Ryan A. Buaron, Owner and Co-Founder THE NEXT ESCAPE: TRAVEL, ARTS, SPORTS AND LIFESTYLE