Air pollution watch: US gas leak - the SoCalGas methane disaster - Sempra could face a bill of as much as $900 million

Editor's note: There seem to be several key strands in the news on smog / air pollution and health issues:
(1)  The rise of Europe policy maker concerns on emissions from diesel vehicles (and this is highlighted by the VW cheating scandal)
(2) the Southeast Asia peat smog haze driving API measures over 300 in neighbouring countries and 1400 in local peat zones - note that Singapore has started legal action against the Singapore units of companies associated with the Sumatran fires. **The recent articles by TOS Singapore on cause of haze and health impacts (for Singapore) are worth reading (but clearly, the health issues would escalate for those living in the peat zones; from recent news article it is evident that NGOs are collecting information on the economic cost of the peat smog haze, so we can probably expect legal actions to ensue)
(3) China urban-industrial air pollution. Now giving rise to some law suits. Some who are more sanguine about #2 in that it is "organic pollutant particles" point out that this is the worrying one given metals in the polluted air due to industrial air pollution form factories.

KL-Singapore focussed spreadsheet of data points reported via

23 April 2016:  German government report accused no car maker of criminal wrongdoing, New Gadgets Help Chinese Cope With Pollution 

Volkswagen Posts Deep Loss After Taking $18.28 Billion Hit on Emissions Scandal - Charge represents large increase on sum initially set aside to cover recalls and repairs By SARAH SLOAT Updated April 22, 2016; ... Volkswagen took a $18.28 billion charge related to the diesel emissions cheating scandal. The news came as the German government revealed conclusions of its emissions scandal report that showed diesel manipulation could be more widespread, although it accused no car maker of criminal wrongdoing... 

New Gadgets Help Chinese Cope With Pollution 4/17/2016 3:00PM      Air pollution in China is a persistent and nagging problem. The WSJ’s Alyssa Abkowitz speaks about some new devices that help Chinese people breathe easier. Photos, clockwise from bottom: CoClean, Ecovacs, Broad Group...

11 Feb 2016: US gas leak - the SoCalGas methane disaster - Sempra could face a bill of as much as $900 million

How Do You Stop the Biggest Gas Leak Ever? Inside the efforts to plug SoCalGas’s methane disaster. by Karen Weise  Bloomberg Businessweek Reprints February 10, 2016; ...The leak had been spewing for about two weeks. Southern California Gas Co., the subsidiary of Sempra Energy that owns the facility at Aliso Canyon, had tried and failed to kill it..... Based on Conley’s readings, the state would estimate that in less than a month, Aliso released more than 68 million pounds of methane. Since then, it’s leaked 132 million pounds more, the state says, based on Conley’s subsequent flights... Aliso potentially the largest-ever single release of methane into the atmosphere—at least, the largest ever recorded.... When methane leaks, it’s not obvious like an oil spill. Methane’s invisible and, for most of its supply chain, has no odor. That helps explain why there’s been such a gap in public awareness of what a growing body of research has found: There are pervasive, daily methane leaks across the country’s energy infrastructure that far outstrip federal estimates. And the bulk of releases come from “super emitters,” which range from persistently malfunctioning valves to one-time events.....Conley found that by Nov. 28, emissions were about 16 percent higher than he’d measured a few days before the kill attempt. At its peak, Aliso emitted almost 128,000 pounds of methane an hour, Conley estimates. (Boots & Coots deferred comment to SoCalGas.)... More residents began asking SoCalGas to pay for temporary housing, and the company opened an office in a shopping center, wedged between SoCal Blow Dry Bar and Visionmax Optometry, to field their complaints. Hundreds of people have been showing up each day, and about 4,460 households are living in hotels or other short-term accommodations, at SoCalGas’s expense.... Plaintiffs lawyers, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., courted panicked residents, saying SoCalGas should pay for what they called unknown health risks and wrecked property values. More than 2,000 people showed up for a December meeting organized by Erin Brockovich and the lawyers she works with....Around 2009, as fracking wells popped up across the U.S., public debate focused on concerns over contaminated water. In an iconic, if much-disputed, scene in the documentary Gasland, filmmaker Josh Fox lights tap water on fire. But since then, scientists have begun to fret about how much methane is escaping into the atmosphere. Too much could counteract the climate benefits of the cleaner-burning gas..... So in 2012, EDF started the largest-ever series of peer-reviewed studies to measure emissions across the oil and gas supply chain. It committed $18 million to fund 16 academic studies not just at production sites but along pipelines and distribution networks, at storage facilities like Aliso, and to endpoints in cities, where gas flows to heat homes and cook meals. Most of the funding came from foundations, with another third coming from oil and gas companies. “One of the biggest questions is, if you had the wrench and wanted to tighten down the leaks, where would you start?” says Tom Ryerson, a methane researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. His work isn’t funded by EDF..... The findings in North Texas’s Barnett shale field, the first basin to widely use horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) methods, were frightening and have proven typical. There, researchers measured emissions 90 percent higher than the estimates in the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and they found that 10 percent of facilities accounted for 90 percent of the leaks. Some leaks were “persistent,” like unlit flares, malfunctioning valves, or other avoidable situations. Others were “episodic,” like Aliso, though at a smaller scale. Many could be prevented with better monitoring and operations...The patterns continued in California, where the state found methane emissions are as much as 74 percent higher than previous estimates.... The Environmental Protection Agency in August proposed the first federal rules to limit methane leaks from oil and gas operations, but they mostly cover new facilities. About 90 percent of emissions come from older sources, according to an EDF study by the consulting firm ICF International. The American Petroleum Institute, in a December call with reporters, said the industry has reduced leaks and that “voluntary methods are the best way to reduce methane emissions from existing sources.”.... Most gas regulation falls to states, which generally haven’t focused on leak detection and prevention. Colorado was the first to require regular monitoring and preventive maintenance. In early February, California proposed rules that would require quarterly inspection of both new and existing gas production sites, and emergency regulations now mandate daily monitoring of storage facilities such as Aliso....California Attorney General Kamala Harris and a long line of others have sued SoCalGas over the Aliso blowout. Los Angeles prosecutors filed misdemeanor criminal charges against the utility for not immediately reporting the leak. (SoCalGas says it will respond to the case “through the judicial process.”) A regional air quality regulator said in a suit that the company’s negligence caused the leak, and multiple state agencies are also conducting their own investigations. SoCalGas’s parent, Sempra Energy, has said it has more than $1 billion in insurance coverage that it believes will cover many of the current and expected a worst-case scenario, Sempra could face a bill of as much as $900 million, says Brandon Barnes, an energy litigation analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. If the leak is stopped by the end of March, the total cost could be about $250 million, he estimates. That includes roughly $115 million to stop the leak and relocate families, $40 million for civil liabilities, and $11 million in state fines. One of the biggest expenses could come from mitigating the climate damage, which the state says it will require. Buying carbon offsets would cost about $92 million, according to Barnes’s calculations.....

8 December 2015: Beijing air pollution went to 666 last week and lowered the red alert threshold this week

Beijing Issues First-Ever Air Pollution Red Alert December 8, 2015 Beijing has suspended schools, restricted car travel and banned fireworks and outdoor barbecuing as the Chinese capital scrambles to cope with a thick blanket of gray smog that’s enveloped the city. Bloomberg's Stephen Engle has more on "First Up." (Source: Bloomberg)

26 November 2015: Haze control and oil palm smallholders by Khor, Saravanamuttu & Augustin - The Habibie Center

Haze control and oil palm smallholders by Khor, Saravanamuttu & Augustin - article published by The Habibie Center

3 November 2015: Looking back at Haze 2013 that triggered off Singapore action

Great haze II - the karmic winds of change? [report]

2 November 2015: CIFOR articles on Indonesia peat fires - broadly recommends re-wet peat zones and restore to original vegetation, but how feasible is this on funding and socio-political front? Palm oil points to smear campaign.

Editor's note: Some policy questions. How do you reduce current cultivation of peatlands - moving individual and corporate farmers away? Relocation and compensation? How do you restore degraded peatlands? Where is the funding? GAPKI - Indonesia palm oil fears smear campaign - is that a doctored image then?

DG’s Column, Preventing fire & haze: sustainable solutions for Indonesian peatlands - What can we do to break the cycle of the haze over the long term? How might we address the underlying drivers and achieve sustainable solutions?  by Peter Holmgren @pholmgren 1 November 2015 about 10 hours ago; From a solutions perspective, we may set ourselves up for failure if we start by trying to answer the environmental concerns. It may be more constructive to view reduced impact on climate and environment as a great and much-needed co-benefit to solutions to health, poverty, food and governance issues....Solving the underlying factors will take time. Now is the time to decide on proper actions for the long term, before the haze and attention blows over.... At the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), we are discussing ways forward, together with partners. We have come to a few starting points with a common denominator that fire and haze need to be raised to a higher level and address development more broadly.... Going forward, we identify a range of essential direct outcomes we should strive for, including: •Drastically reduced conversion of forests into agriculture •Reduced use of fire in agriculture •Overall reduction of cultivation on peatlands •Improved opportunities for rural livelihoods and income •Improved markets and value chains for sustainable products •Restoration of degraded peatlands...

Indonesia on fire again … and again? The fires in Indonesia have made global headlines—but this is a decades-old, recurring problem that needs long-term solutions. by Suzanna Anderson 29 Oct 2015; The fires in Indonesia have been raging for more than two months, creating a toxic haze that has blanketed much of the country and spread across  neighboring regions. Rains in the past week have provided a little welcome relief, but the crisis is far from over. Most of the fires in Central Kalimantan are blazing in former peatland forests, which have been drained, cleared and burned for oil palm and agriculture, at large and small scales.  The dried-out peat ignites easily and burns underground; the fire then creeps along under the surface. Peatlands are made up of decomposed forest debris. They have been around for thousands of years and are home to thousands of plants and animals, including endangered keystone species such as the orangutan....

Video - Indonesia on fire. Join scientists as they visit the burning peatland in Central Kalimantan and describe the causes and effects. by Center for International Forestry Research @cifor 30 Oct 2015

Life amid the fires and haze of Central Kalimantan - A visual journey through smoke-covered landscapes and villages by Center for International Forestry Research @cifor 27 Oct 2015 In Central Kalimantan, schoolchildren are missing classes, farmers are losing their harvests, and orangutans are losing their homes. The effects of the fires and smoke – among the worst seen in Southeast Asia in years – are far-reaching and devastating. During a trip to Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan in mid-October 2015, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and their partners saw and documented just some of the ways that communities, wildlife, the environment and the economy are being affected. For the full album, visit our Flickr page: Fire and Haze, Central Kalimantan:

Smear campaign against Indonesian palm oil underway: GAPKI, Jakarta | National | Mon, October 26 2015, 2:48 PM 

31 October 2015: Rains arrive (they were due end Oct / early Nov) and Sumatra-Kalimantan haze abates, VW excess emissions will kill 59 Americans

Rain in Indonesia Dampens Forest Fires That Spread Toxic Haze By JOE COCHRANEOCT. 28, 2015; Torrential rains overnight on Tuesday in the regions of Sumatra and Kalimantan — where forest fires have been raging for weeks, sickening hundreds of thousands of people — have significantly reduced the size and number of fires, said Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs. “I hope we have turned the corner,” he said in an interview. “If the rain continues over the next five days, we are past this.”...He said the number of “hot spots,” areas where satellite imagery shows heavy forest fires, had dropped to 291 on Wednesday from 1,578 on Monday because of the heavy rains...Seventeen Indonesian civilians have died from respiratory illnesses caused by the haze, as well as one firefighter in an operational accident, Mr. Luhut said....

Widespread shower activities in the region have helped to subdue the land fires in Kalimantan. However, some smoke haze was still observed in parts of Sumatra. Updated 7:46 PM 29 Oct
Volkswagen's Excess Emissions Will Kill 59 Americans: Study; An MIT and Harvard study is the first peer-reviewed estimate of the health impacts of Volkswagen's faulty software code.  by Tom Randall October 30, 2015 — 9:31 PM HKT; Volkswagen's emissions scandal now has an estimated death toll. The excess emissions that the company concealed will be responsible for about 59 early deaths in the U.S. alone, according to a sweeping new study. The implications for Europe are far worse. The study, by researchers at MIT and Harvard, is the first peer-reviewed estimate of the health impacts of Volkswagen's faulty software code, designed to conceal harmful pollutants. If the cars are all recalled by the end of next year, another 130 deaths may be avoided, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

22 October 2015: KL-ites pressured and frustrated at Haze disruptions. Southern Thailand tourist belt blanketed by haze. Singapore BT graphic comparing Haze data. Singapore air pollution recently soared over 400.

Editor's note: I can now see in KL social media some anti-palm oil views from people never before caring or knowing about palm oil. Some are associating the haze with palm oil. KL-ites also talking about boycotting certain makes of paper products. I sense sheer frustration at the dismal smog outlook as we're in the second month of dense smog (and likely a good dollop of depression due to the greyness). People I bumped into in KL today were mightily frustrated at the 4 days of no school for their kids / grand kids (schools with classrooms better equipped to handle the haze i.e. enclosed with air-conditioning, were also pressured to close); the urban working population felt the pressure of how to work and handle kids out of school. Schools reopen tomorrow despite still high measures in Klang Valley - only northern states remain closed - showing an easing of Ministry of Education policy. People sense a lack of will in business-political circles over the haze and some are turning to thinking about making gestures with what they choose to buy or boycott. Economic losses are rising, as the dense smog drifts up to the southern Thai tourist belt.

source. accessed 9.45pm today; shows Malaysia headline measures
in 200s (PM10 and not PM2.5 basis) drifting up to parts of southern Thailand

DPM: Unfair to pressure Indonesia govt over haze Last updated on 22 October 2015 - 08:26pm  by Aiezat Fadzell, BERNAMA  KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will not put any form of pressure on Indonesia to tackle the cross-border haze menace originating from the republic. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said such a move would be unfair to Indonesia which was earnestly undertaking efforts to put out the  fires on its peat land.  "It's unfair to put any pressure on Indonesia. President Joko Widodo has shown strong commitment to solving the problem in the long term," he told reporters after opening the first Putrajaya International Security Dialogue, here, today....

1,600 schools in 3 northern states remain closed tomorrow Published: 22 October 2015 6:21 PM; ...The ministry said 1,600 schools in Perlis, Penang and Perak with 728,739 students were affected by the directive, except for schools in Kedah that were normally closed on Fridays. Schools in other states are to reopen tomorrow...... "Schools also have to remind and advise their students to always take care of their health, by covering their mouths and nose when they are in school," the circular from the ministry said. The smoke in Malaysia is caused by forest fires and burning in plantations in neighbouring Indonesia. It has forced thousands of schools to be closed several times now due to the bad air since last month. – October 22, 2015. - See more at:

'Worst haze in a decade' blankets southern Thailand - Prevailing winds in the recent weeks have brought the smog to Thailand, stoking tensions and creating a headache for the country's vital tourism industry.  UPDATED: 22 Oct 2015 16:54; BANGKOK: Dense haze produced by Indonesian forest fires has caused some of the worst pollution levels in southern Thailand for a decade, officials said Thursday (Oct 22), delaying flights in an area popular with tourists.... Thai officials Thursday said air quality had dipped to unhealthy levels in seven southern provinces, with particularly high readings in southwestern Songkhla province where some flights have been delayed or turned back. "It's considered a crisis. It's the worst in 10 years," Halem Jemarican, head of the Environment Office in Songkhla province, told AFP by phone. "The key factor is the wind. It's strong at the hot spot origins but when it reaches Thailand the winds weaken so the haze stays around for longer," he added... Earlier this month several planes packed with beach-bound tourists to Phuket and Koh Samui were forced to turn back because of haze levels. Thailand's Public Health Ministry said it had distributed 55,700 facemasks in the south with a further 40,000 were on the way. In a statement the country's Pollution Control Department said it had "called for Indonesia to implement measures to reduce burning in order to mitigate haze"....While the loudest complaints have come from leaders in relatively affluent Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, it is poor Indonesian villagers who are suffering most. Pictures this week revealed a thick, yellow haze smothering Palangkaraya in central Indonesia, with locals forced to go about their daily life regardless of the extreme health hazards.....

A whopping 106,783 fires have been detected in Indonesia so far in 2015 – and experts think things could deteriorate further. But just how bad is the situation, relative to the past and in comparison to other countries’ emissions? The Business Times peers through the hazy issue, using data from the Global Fire Emissions Database and the World Resource Institute. BY KELLY TAY

source: Twitter on 19 October shows Singapore air pollution
 reading soaring to year's high in 400s

21 October 2015: WALHI assist on community's $3.5 billion class action suit against plantation giants and Wilmar as region suffers unprecedented haze, Indonesia’s palm oil fires are emitting more greenhouse gases every day than the entire US; from readers on slow process of transferring new technologies to small farmers and the Thai agricultural haze problem 

Editor's note: Question on the class action suit include whether the type of companies targeted include those in the supply-chain buying fruit from smallholder fire zones?

From an agronomist (specialist in Indonesia smallholder extension work): "The haze is an unfortunate and dangerous event and incredibly hard for the Indonesian authorities to stop. If alternative methods of clearing refuse can be promoted by the extension services, that will lead to a progressive lessening, but unfortunately the extension services are not all that effective. As you know, most commercial estates do not burn any more and the alternative is certainly feasible. Transferring new technologies to small farmers is a slow process, as we know all too well from our experiences with cocoa, vegetables, seaweed and cattle in NTT.  But people do respond, and eventually there's a snowball effect."
From a reader in Thailand: Editorial in the Bangkok Post mistakenly blames corporate agriculture for northern Thailand's serious haze problems - Interesting that the corn industry is blamed, where there are no corporations working in any area of Thailand, let alone the North. The closest to corporate farming that has become well established in the north is sugar cane... ... 80-90% is still hand harvested and burnt off prior to harvest.... farmers tend to burn the remaining residue to "clean up" their field even though no longer required, they just don't get the picture that they need to change. We used to regularly get "black snow" as the locals called it in Takfa... Burning rice paddies is also a high contributor to this, with this acrid smoke due to the amount of green material remaining in the paddy......Myanmar and Laos,  While they do contribute, its more a home grown problem...

South Sumatra residents to file class action suit against firms causing haze - The companies suspected of burning land and causing transboundary haze are Asia Agri, Golden Agri Resources, Wilmar, Sime Darby, and Asia Pulp and Paper. By Saifulbahri Ismail POSTED: 06 Oct 2015 19:39  UPDATED: 09 Oct 2015 10:26; JAKARTA: A group of Indonesian residents in Jambi, South Sumatra are in the final stages of preparing a class action lawsuit against five companies responsible for the forest fires that have caused massive air pollution in Indonesia and across the region. They are expected to serve notice to these companies this month....According to reports, thousands of people living in Jambi have developed respiratory infections after breathing the acrid air, while others have suffered lost income.... They are claiming a total of 51 trillion rupiah (US$3.5 billion) in losses."There are two kinds of losses: Firstly, losses that can be calculated to around 7 trillion rupiah, the companies have to compensate that. There is also the cost of recovering the land which has been destroyed, and we have calculated that to be 44 trillion rupiah," said Mr Musri.The Indonesian Forum for the Environment or Walhi, is helping the plaintiffs with their lawsuit. Walhi has conducted its own legal battle against companies and acknowledges it faces a challenge ahead...."Walhi won its claim during the forest fires which destroyed some 11.6 million hectares in 1998, and one more in 2000 in South Kalimantan,” said Mr Mukri Fatriani, an ecology disaster campaigner from Walhi. “From then on, 14 years have passed and we have not won any other claims." Walhi said that even though there are clear laws, these have not been enforced. Those taking the companies to court are confident of getting a positive result..... "The 2015 incident is different from earlier incidents. This year is extraordinary,” said Mr Musri. “Indonesia and our neighbours Malaysia and Singapore are directly affected. It wasn’t as bad before. So, this is what gives us energy to fight.... “Secondly, I’m confident that because this claim is from the desire of the community, we will try. If you ask what our chances are, the law has to improve to answer the haze problem objectively, and I'm confident we can win this legal battle."....

Carbon bomb - Indonesia’s palm oil fires are emitting more greenhouse gases every day than the entire US  Steve Mollman   October 20, 2015; ... So far this year, Indonesia’s fires have produced more pollution than Germany does in a year. On 26 days from the period of Sept. 1 to Oct. 14, their daily emissions surpassed those of the entire US (the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China), according to researchers led by Guido van der Werf from VU University Amsterdam. They calculated that the nearly 100,000 fires in Indonesia detected to date this year emitted more than 1,000 metric tons (1,102 tons) of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions cumulatively. That puts the country on track for its worst fire year since 2006. On Oct. 14 alone there were more than 4,700 fire alerts—that’s more than on any single day in the past two years. So why are these fires so potent? More than half of them this year have occurred on peatland areas, concentrated mainly in south Sumatra, south and central Kalimantan (on Borneo), and Papua, according to the World Resources Institute, citing data from Global Forest Watch Fires.....

Haze fallout: RedMart withdraws APP products TODAY reports: The online grocer withdraws all paper products sourced from Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), after the National Environment Agency launched an investigation into the company’s role in the forest fires in Indonesia. POSTED: 20 Oct 2015 07:44; Since the NEA revealed the names of the firms it is probing, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) have started a campaign urging retailers and other businesses to declare they do not source for materials or products from the firms.The SEC has also restricted the use of APP’s Singapore Green Label certification. Businesses that have come aboard to make the declaration and pull APP products off their shelves include NTUC FairPrice, Prime and Sheng Siong. Other companies such as Watsons have clarified they do not stock Paseo, NICE and Jolly brands by APP, and is working with suppliers to run an audit to ensure that their products are not procured from the six companies accused of contributing to the haze pollution. RedMart said it carries 13 other paper products that are certified with the Singapore Green Label, and its own RedMart-branded paper products are certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). “RedMart has also created a ‘FSC’ certified search option and filter within its Paper & Tissue category to encourage its customers to buy sustainably produced products,” said the company.....

Countries now understand how hard it is to put out forest fires: South Sumatra governor - South Sumatra province was one of the areas most badly hit by forest fires, and for more than a week, international help had focused on extinguishing the blaze. POSTED: 21 Oct 2015 22:08; ...“I don't want to mention any names, but there are lessons learnt. They now know putting out the fires in the peatlands is extraordinarily difficult, so now there's no more speculation from other countries. That is good." South Sumatra province is one of the areas most badly hit by forest fires, and for more than one week, international help has focused on extinguishing the blaze. Mr Noerdin says forest fires also occur every year in Australia, Canada, and the United States. But the difference is that because those fires are not in the peatlands, they can be put out a lot easier, says Mr Noerdin.......

Schools in several Malaysian states to close for fourth day due to haze - The areas affected include Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Sabah and Perak, which had Unhealthy readings Wednesday afternoon. POSTED: 21 Oct 2015 20:02

20 October 2015: President Jokowi said that the fires covered 1.7 million hectares,  Siti Nurbaya says to uncover the real actors behind the fire cases (not only catch people ordered to burn it), "(business) mafias and their puppets are partying, whilst the majority of the Indonesian people live in the wallow of poverty and squalor"; 1.7 million hectares in perspective, economic cost of haze to Singapore (including Prof YK Ng view)

Singapore and Indonesia haze: Interactive before-and-after photos show dramatically reduced visibility By David Sim September 29, 2015 12:00 BST Indonesia has deployed nearly 21,000 personnel to fight forest fires raging in its northern islands, as thick smoke cloaks much of the region. Hazardous smog has blanketed parts of northern Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. South-east Asia has suffered for years from annual bouts of smog caused by slash-and-burn practices on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands, and the fires have been exacerbated this year by the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon, as a prolonged dry season has parched the soil, fuelling the flames. These interactive before-and-after photos show how visibility in neighbouring Singapore has been dramatically affected.


ASMC website screenshots

On the extent of the fires (see below for context)

1.7 million hectares. While stressing last Friday (9/10) that the Indonesian government had tried its best to put up the ongoing forest fires, President Jokowi said that the fires covered 1.7 million hectares in Kalimantan (770,000 ha), Sumatra (593,000 ha) and in South Sumatra (221,704 ha), reported. They include peatland forests. This is approximately 25 times the area of Singapore city, which stands at 71 thousand hectares....... The Indonesian government had done its best in the past months to extinguish the forest fires utilizing local resources. Its efforts included producing artificial rain with military aircraft. No less than 2,600 military troops had been deployed in the past weeks to help tackle the forest fire disaster in those regions, Armed Forces (TNI) Commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo said in Jakarta on Sunday (10/10). Last Friday he visited Jambi where TNI troops were digging ditches to let water flow through peatland sites, a method of mitigating the spread of fire in these forests..... Unfortunately, all the efforts made by Indonesia, under the coordination of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), had been unsuccessful in catching up with the rapidly spreading fires. Accordingly, President Jokowi expects that, with foreign assistance, the ongoing forest fires could be completely resolved by the end of this month........ The president said last Thursday (8/11) that Japan and Russia were making preparations to dispatch their aircrafts to support Indonesian, Singaporean and Malaysian planes in putting out forest fires in Sumatra. While other countries including China, Australia and South Korea were reported to also have the intention in contributing similar kind of assistance........ Meanwhile, there had been limited reports about the ongoing handling of forest fires in Kalimantan. Relatively thick haze from Kalimantan and Sumatra had reached Singapore and Malaysia........ At the moment, Jokowi said, Indonesia urgently needed aircraft that can carry 12-15 tons of water. Indonesian aircraft currently used to tackle forest fires had capacity of 2-3 tons only. Moreover, larger planes were also needed to transport fire extinguishing troops........

“Satellite photos showed 58 thousand hectares, instead of 8,000 hectares,” said Siti Nurbaya when reviewing the location of fires in Rimbo Panjang, Kampar, Riau, Sunday (20/9). Siti Nurbaya claimed that she did not understand why the comprehensive reports of the fire could be different.Even so, she said that this needs to be done and all parties need to work together to tackle the fire. “Governments can’t solve this alone. We must work together,” she added. She stressed, public should receive fair information related to law enforcement for arsonists, because it has become the instruction of the President Joko Widodo. The law enforcement have to uncover the real actor behind the fire cases, not only catch people who were ordered to burn it........

Effect on people at 900+

September 15, 2015 MYT 10:24:24 AM  Thousands flee Pekanbaru as haze hits record high MEDAN: Thousands are fleeing Pekanbaru as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in the Riau province capital, which is about 280km away from Singapore, surged to a record 984 yesterday........ Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar yesterday declared a haze emergency in Riau province. She said Riau Acting Governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman had also set up aid stations at several locations........ The minister's move, however, came too late for Wahyuni, a student from Jambi. The 15-year-old died last Friday after coughing for three days prior to her death. She was said to have had difficulty breathing because of the haze. "We knew Wahyuni had a pre-existing heart condition," said her mother, Ms Nuraini. "Her heart was weak but she never had breathing difficulty like this before."....... Mr Roni Amriel, an MP in Pekanbaru, said the city is no longer liveable because of the haze, and asked the municipal government to start evacuating residents. "Action must be taken, including evacuation," said Mr Roni, adding that the ideal destination for evacuees is West Sumatra, which shares its borders with Riau. He also said Pekanbaru city, the province of Riau, or the central government could foot the bill for the evacuation........ Visibility in Pekanbaru was reduced to between 100m and 200m yesterday afternoon, while Dumai and Pelalawan - which are also in Riau - had a visibility level of 50m....... Dr Slamet Budiarto, who heads the Jakarta Chapter of the Indonesian Doctors' Association, said the PSI reading of 984 should "trigger an evacuation". He added that at that level, the haze could cause nausea and physical weakness and, in the long term, may lead to cancer. ...

Are there commercial business interests?

“This is only oil and gas, we have not counted mafias from the food and other strategic business sectors. It is truly a pity for the people and poor citizens of Indonesia. The mafia and their puppets are partying, whilst the majority of the Indonesian people live in the wallow of poverty and squalor,” said Erwin as quoted by

A lucrative illegal market for land to plant crops such as oil palm is a major cause of annual fires in Indonesia, a senior forestry researcher says, with the racket driven by complicit local officials and the global demand for commodities. Dr Herry Purnomo is part of a team at the Bogor-based Centre for International Forestry Research looking at the political economy of fires and haze in Indonesia. The political economy, he explained, refers to how economic actors at different levels influence and weaken law enforcement at all levels. "The actors can be individual powerful elites that are connected to the companies," he added.... PROFITING BY BURNING If you grab the land, the forest - it can be concession land or state land - you can sell it. My research shows that the price is around eight million rupiah (S$800) per hectare. But if you burn that land, the price will increase.


Indonesia - Haze causes serious health hazards Published on Jul 21, 2015

Deforestation across Kalimantan where fires are raging

Land Fires: Thick Haze in Central Kalimantan Capital

Indonesia - East Kalimantan fires

Indonesia, ASEAN, battle perceptions of inaction over haze and illegal burning


1.7 million ha in context

Trafalgar Square has an area of about one hectare

100 ha is 1`square km so 1.7 million ha is about 17,000 square km:

  • Belgium is 30,000 sq km i.e. 57% of its land area
  • Brunei is 5,300 sq km i.e. 3.2x of its land area
  • El Salvador is 21,000 sq km i.e. 81% of its land area
  • Fiji is 18,300 sq km i.e. 92% of its land area
  • Israel 21,600 sq km i.e. 79% of its land area
  • Kuwait 17,800 sq km i.e. 96% of its land area
  • Swaziland 17,200 sq km i.e equivalent of its land area
  • New York, USA is 55,000 sq km i.e. 31% of its land area
  • Hawaii, USA is 11,000 sq km i.e. 1.54x its land area
  • Maine, USA is 35,000 sq km i.e. about half of its land area

*Current Indonesia fires at 1.7 million hectares or 17,000 sq km (as reported 10 October 2015) versus size of other wildfires:

  • China, 1987 – The Black Dragon fire burnt a total of 72,884 square kilometres (72.9 million ha) of forest along the Amur river
  • Indonesia, 1997 and 1998 – Unprecedented forest fires in Kalimantan and East Sumatra. 97,000 km2 (9.7 million ha) of forest were destroyed, more than 2.6 gigatonnes of CO2 was released to the atmosphere
  • Australia, 1851, Black Thursday - approximately 5 million ha, or a quarter of Victoria
  • Indonesia, 1982 and 1983 - Massive forest fires in Kalimantan and East Sumatra. 36,000 km2 (3.6 million ha) of forest burned down. There are other forest fires in Java and Sulawesi on the same year.
  • *Current Indonesia fires at 1.7 million hectares or 17,000 sq km
  • Bolivia, 2010 Bolivia forest fires, 15,000 square kilometres or 1.5 million ha
  • North America, 1950, Chinchaga Fire, British Columbia and Alberta, 1.4 million ha
  • North America, 1825, Miramichi FIre, New Brunswick - 1.2 million ha
  • North America, 1910, Great Fire of 1910, Idaho-Montana-Washington, 1.2 million ha
  • North America, 1871, The Great Michigan Fire, Michigan - 1 million ha
  • North America, 2011, Richardson Backcountry Fire, Alberta, 707,000 ha
  • North America, 2008, Summer California wildfires, 630,000 ha
  • North America, 2004, Taylor Complex Fire, Alaska, 528,000 ha
  • Australia, 2009, Black Saturday bushfires - 450,000 ha
source:  List of wildfires in Wikipedia here 

Economic cost of the haze - Singapore perspectives

During the 1997 haze, an episode that lasted three months, a conservative estimate of the economic costs of the haze in Singapore (by Professor Euston Quah, one of the two authors of this piece) was US$163 million. In 2013, the one-week haze period which saw the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reaching a record high of 401 led to estimated economic losses of US$50 million, a figure extrapolated from previous findings. In the future, the economic costs are likely to increase....

Singapore’s losses to haze underestimated, says Nanyang professor Published: 6 July 2013 9:34 AM While it is complicated to put a price tag on the social, economic and psychological effects of the haze-induced damage, the figure of S$1 (RM2.5) per day per person is a gross underestimation. Nanyang Technological University economics professor Ng Yew Kwang said some economists had been too conservative in estimating the damage to Singapore from Indonesia's forest fires. It had been estimated that Singapore had lost about S$5 million a day, including medical bills, tourism losses, impact on businesses, purchase of face masks and similar damage.... Ng said such "lower-bound" estimates had been made by Professor Euston Quah, Nanyang Technological University's Economics Division head, and OCBC Bank's Selena Ling. Writing in The Straits Times, Ng said that while not inaccurate, the figures grossly underestimated the severity of the problem as the adequate damage figure should be much higher. He cited a World Wide Fund for Nature report which said that the haze-induced health expenses in 1997 accounted for only 12 per cent of the total damage. The lost tourism revenues accounted for 78 per cent while the airline industry's losses made up the remaining 10 per cent. Ng argued that the negative health effects of breathing polluted air and the side effects should make up the bulk of the losses.....Face masks flew off the shelves in drug stores and other retailers like fresh loaves of bread from the oven as Singaporeans rushed to get protection from the haze. The Health Ministry cooled the panic when face masks were sold out by distributing fresh stocks from its own armoury of about nine million masks. Ng said to gauge the costs of the haze crisis, he had to ask himself what percentage of his annual salary would he be willing to forgo to make the problem go away. His answer was not less than 10 per cent. "What if the skies remained hazy? How much compensation would make me indifferent to the situation?" His answer was not less than 15 per cent of his annual salary. Ng said the average of the 10 per cent and 15 per cent figures is 12.5 per cent. This meant that a rough estimate of the haze costs to him was no less than 12.5 per cent of his annual income. "So let's assume that your annual salary is $100,000 (RM250,000), 12.5 per cent of which is $12,500, which is the equivalent to 50 per cent of your quarterly salary of $25,000. "As the haze outbreak lasts an average of three months annually, the costs of the event can go as high as 50 per cent of Singaporean's earned income during this period." Ng also put up the assumption that his willingness to pay a percentage of his earned income was higher than that of the average Singaporean. - See more at:

Singapore Haze Starts to Crimp Business By Natasha Brereton-Fukui  Updated June 21, 2013 1:46 p.m. ET; SINGAPORE—The severe haze choking parts of Southeast Asia is already hurting some businesses in Singapore, especially in tourism and retail, and could dent the regional economy more broadly if the smoke persists, as some officials warned it might. Singapore's air-pollution index soared to a record of 401 Friday, taking it well into "hazardous" territory before dropping back. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, air quality was still in the moderate zone at 81, but Johor state in the south was hit worse, with an index reading as high as 323, which is considered "hazardous" as well....Before this past week, the previous record of 226 was set in September 1997, during a period of air pollution that lasted for several months.  Work has continued on construction sites and in offices and financial markets—some employees have opted to work from home—and flights out of Changi Airport are operating with a slightly longer gap between planes due to reduced visibility. However, several fast-food chains, including  McDonald's  and Pizza Hut, have stopped making deliveries to protect their staff from the smog. Some offices have handed out face masks and even installed air purifiers, and the government has asked companies to minimize employees' work outside....

Singapore, Malaysia face economic hit from prolonged smog  Jun 24, 2013 5:33am EDT By John O'Callaghan; The haze crisis in 1997 lasted about three months and cost Southeast Asia an estimated $9 billion from disruptions to air travel, health expenses and other business impacts. Economists and businesses say the costs are already mounting about a week since air pollution levels in the countries shot up to unhealthy and sometimes hazardous levels... "The haze has definitely affected our business. Our sales fell around 40 percent in the past week," said Goo Wai Chien, who sells pizza and pasta at a hawker center in Singapore's business district. "But hopefully the situation is improving."...Irvin Seah, DBS economist in Singapore, said the overall impact could be worse than in 1997 if the haze drags on. "In 1997, the level of pollution was not this severe, and on the other hand the tourism industry's contribution to the economy was relatively smaller back then." Tourism makes up 6.4 percent of Malaysia's economy and about 5 to 6 percent of Singapore's. Analysts see that sector taking an immediate knock, even if they cannot quantify the damage. "The impact will be negative," ANZ, a bank, said in a research report, referring to Singapore. "Shopping, restaurants, bars and outdoor entertainment will all suffer during this hazy period."...

Transboundary Haze: How Might The Singapore Government Minimise Its Occurrence?

Indonesia's Fires and Haze: The Cost of Catastrophe  By David Glover, Timothy Jessup 1999 (2006 reprint)

19 October 2015: Not much for Peninsular Malaysia to hope for when Pekanbaru-Jambi-Palembang readings: 464, 999, 700... schools close in several Malaysia states

 Editor's note: I've been collating some data here:; and the just casually observing the forecast shown in website, it seems to take in the wind direction expected. Not much for Peninsular Malaysia to hope for when Pekanbaru-Jambi-Palembang readings: 464, 999, 700.

Haze: Schools in three states, Putrajaya, KL, Tawau, Kuching, Samarahan ordered to close by Suganthi Suparmaniam, Astro Awani | Published on October 18, 2015 21:27 MYT

Haze: Hundreds of passengers stranded after flights cancelled in Sabah; KOTA KINABALU (The Star/Asia News Network) - Five flights on the Tawau-Kota Kinabalu route have been cancelled due to the haze, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded in airports.

Are the products you buy connected to the haze? Supermarkets in Singapore including NTUC FairPrice and Sheng Siong have pulled the plug on the products of haze-linked firms. Here is a look at how some of these companies are connected to the fires in Indonesia and the products they sell. PUBLISHED: OCT 16, 2015

Hot spots doubled in Central Kalimantan Published Oct 4, 2015, 5:00 am SGT; Ministry data shows 12,327 fires registered last month compared to 5,574 a year ago by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta; Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province continued to be shrouded in thick haze as the Pollutant Standards Index in its capital Palangkaraya rose to 1,917 before sensors stopped sending updates after 11am yesterday. The province has been the worst hit by forest fires raging over land embedded with coal deposits that make them almost impossible to put out during this dry spell. This has led to a spike in the number of hot spots recorded by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, particularly in September this year. Data from the ministry show that Central Kalimantan - on Borneo island - registered 12,327 hot spots in September this year, compared with just 5,574 fires in the same month last year. South Sumatra, the other badly hit province, on Sumatra island saw about 11,450 hot spots, more t an three times the number in the same period last year. This brought the total number of hot spots in September to 39,672 this year, compared to just under 15,000 fires recorded last year...

SPECIAL REPORT - Tough to pinpoint haze culprits  Sep 15, 2015, 5:00 am SGT Poor law enforcement, corruption, unclear rules on land use hamper probes: Observers by David Fogarty and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja;  "Studies of fire and haze in Kalimantan and Sumatra firmly point towards small-scale farmers and other under-the-radar, mid-scale landowners rather than large companies as the main cause of fires and haze," wrote Dr Erik Meijaard, a conservation scientist of the Borneo Futures initiative, in a recent commentary in the Jakarta Globe.... Evidence shows that the majority of fires usually occur outside timber, logging and oil palm concessions and that farmers are partly to blame. Complicating the picture further is that many pulpwood concessions have communities living inside them. In some cases, transmigrants illegally claim a piece of land by clearing it using fire and then planting crops - particularly in protected forest areas. Indonesian law allows farmers to clear forested land using fire, provided the ar a cleared does not exceed 2ha. "We have seen largely two types of actors involved in fires in Sumatra," Mr Aditya Bayunanda, WWF Indonesia's Forest Commodity Market Transformation Leader, told The Straits Times yesterday. "First of all, people are actively setting fires to clear lands, often as part of grabbing new lands. Land-grabbing has recently been increasing inside protected areas as much of Sumatra's lands had been leased to companies. Such illegal encroachments are often sponsored by companies, financiers or even government officials," said Mr Aditya, who is also a member of Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of local NGOs. Second, he said, oil palm and pulp plantations prime the landscape for fire by opening up lands, particularly flammable peat lands....

16 October 2015: Singapore moves on "haze-free" products - apart from wood, paper makers, SEC plans to work with others such as palm oil industry; REDD and Indonesia peatland burning

Editor's notes:
  • I had a chat with major supplier of stationery products who recently signed commitment to a big Singapore client to replace paper products currently supplied from APP (part of the Sinar Mas group). As trader in supply-chain, his company is looking at $15,000 of costs per year to be FSC certified; but it is expected that 5% higher prices for such products would cover higher cost of such certified product. In checking with Malaysia state policies, he indicates that the Federal policy is 5% take-up of a Malaysia "green tag" labeled products every year. APP is at the forefront as it has branded consumer products, whilst other suppliers who are not so vertically integrated have been less exposed in the Singapore consumer boycott push. The two big Indonesia pulp and paper companies are APP and APRIL. This trader is looking at supply from Thailand (no peat fire risk) and further afield for FSC (much of this from Scandinavia).
  •  I also had some feedback from another part of Malaysia - "Nothing changes, I recall the "Haze" 20 years ago: in Kuantan if the wind blew one way we got the smoke from Sumatra and if it blew the other way it came form Kalimantan. we went about 6 months without seeing the local hill with the phone masts on - all of 1km away!"
Can REDD save Indonesia’s peatlands from burning?   By Chris Lang 14 October 2015

14 October 2015: Singapore moves on "haze-free" products - apart from wood, paper makers, SEC plans to work with others such as palm oil industry

11 October 2015: $ billions of damages from haze, VW blames rogue engineers for emissions cheating! China Open tennis hit by hazardous smog "player screams vomit"

Smoky Haze Costing Southeast Asia Billions of Dollars - Fires in Indonesia, from land-clearing for agriculture, are affecting millions of people, releasing climate-changing gases; By Ben Otto  Oct. 9, 2015 7:22 a.m. ET JAKARTA, Indonesia—A smoky haze from land-clearing fires in Indonesia is choking Southeast Asia and causing billions of dollars in damages, threatening to become the worst event of its kind on record. The hazardous white smog mainly from agricultural fires on Sumatra, Borneo and Sulawesi islands has in recent weeks closed thousands of schools, grounded hundreds of flights and raised pollution levels in Indonesia. It has also hit...

Southeast Asia's Haze Explained 1:16 - with Greenpeace footage,'s%20Haze%20Explained

Volkswagen U.S. CEO Says He Didn’t Know in 2014 of Emissions Defeat Devices - Michael Horn tells lawmakers he was only told at the time about problems with emissions compliance in diesel cars, By Mike Spector and Amy Harder  Updated Oct. 9, 2015 8:31 a.m. ET;  "...rejected suggestions there was a broad conspiracy at the German auto maker to cheat on diesel-emissions tests, instead pointing to rogue engineers as likely culprits in the scandal.... "...

Player screams vomit at China Open, and in the stands, the facemask is increasingly standard equipment Friday October 9, 201506:00 PM GMT+8; BEIJING, Oct 9 — A player’s complaint that the smog made him vomit and the unflattering sight of fans in face masks have put Beijing’s notorious air pollution back in the spotlight after haze hit this week’s China Open. “Hazardous” levels of smog cleared by yesterday, but not before Martin Klizan’s angry tirade and pictures highlighting the murky air went worldwide on social and traditional media. In a widely reported Facebook post, since deleted, the Slovakian world number 42 said he coughed uncontrollably and then vomited after his defeat to Fabio Fognini, and vowed never to play at the tournament again. “Regardless of the result of today’s match... it has been such an extreme smog in Beijing today that half an hour after the beginning of the match I started to cough uncontrollably after every point and I had to vomit after the match,” the post read.  World No. 42 Martin Klizan, on his now deleted Facebook post: ‘Unfortunately, I will have to leave this tournament out from my calendar for the rest of my tennis career.’ — Alex Goodlett/Getty Images/AFP file picWorld No. 42 Martin Klizan, on his now deleted Facebook post: ‘Unfortunately, I will have to leave this tournament out from my calendar for the rest of my tennis career.’ — Alex Goodlett/Getty Images/AFP file pic“There is such an extreme smog in this city, that due to my health, which should be a priority of every tournament organiser, unfortunately, I will have to leave this tournament out from my calendar for the rest of my tennis career.” - See more at:

4 October 2015: Zahid - Indonesia’s 3-year plan to combat haze deemed too long, need to improve haze pollution measure, haze kills millions of chickens reduces vegetable production; Peninsular Malaysia closes most schools for Mon-Tue

Editor's note: Solutions unlikely to be rapid; note the intractable haze problems also noted in northern ASEAN haze belts too.... For those looking for kid N95 masks, they are pretty pricey. I've seen these so far, Vogmask and (a Singapore made/designed) disposable mask...  with micro ventilator add on... But what about all those living closer to the epicenter of the haze zones?

source:, accessed 2.55pm, 4 October 2015. Note: Basis of reporting in Malaysia is PM10 and Singapore and Indonesia uses PM2.5. Also the headline measure use different lagged averages of hourly data. 

Ahmad Zahid: Indonesia’s plan to combat haze deemed too long  by nadirah h. rodzi  Updated: Sunday October 4, 2015 MYT 12:23:41 PM....Last Tuesday, BBC reported Indonesian president Joko Widodo said he needed time to tackle the forest burning, and that his citizens were also victims of the haze that is affecting the region. In the report, Joko said it would take three years for results to be seen from efforts to end the huge annual fires, as it is "not a problem that you can solve quickly"...

Malaysia should follow Singapore in use of technology to measure haze pollution, Zahid says By Ida Lim Sunday October 4, 201512:19 PM GMT+8 - See more at:

Haze: Schools to close for two days by oh chin eng AND d. kanyakumari Updated: Sunday October 4, 2015 MYT 2:03:50 PM
 Haze forces closure of three airport runways  by rahmah ghazali Updated: Sunday October 4, 2015 MYT 11:03:57 AM

Haze choking Malaysian farms as chickens, vegetable production affected, Oct 2, 2015, 8:51 am SGT... PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The haze in Malaysia is affecting business at farms that rear poultry and produce vegetables as chickens die by the millions in a month and farm produce dwindle, with consumers set to be the biggest losers....He added that this was a big issue every year and that at times the mortality rate could rise up to four million of the 50 million that are produced in a month in peninsular Malaysia.... "Chickens are more sensitive to the haze than humans. They have respiratory problems and become weak. We have to give them vitamins. When they are weak, they are slow to grow and that is not good," said Loo, who is also a farmer....  "Many farmers try and keep the breeder chickens that are meant for culling alive so they can lay more eggs. But even hens become weak during the haze and lay fewer eggs," said Loo.... Sarawak Livestock Breeders Association chairman Lee Jin Chiaw said that egg production has dropped by about 2 per cent. In Johor, the owner of Lew Brothers Poultry Farm Sdn Bhd, Lew Kim Huat said that egg production at its two farms in Ulu Tiram and Layang had declined to about 5 per cent since the start of the haze. "Our hens are becoming restless and weak,'' he said adding that about 28,000 of the 700,000 birds also died due to suffocation, about twice the usual number of deaths.....

Malaysia and Indonesia to come up with long-term solution to haze problem   By ADRIAN LAI - 18 September 2015 @ 4:57 PM

Malaysia Evacuates Citizens From Haze-Hit Riau  - Vice President Jusuf Kalla, right, talks with Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Jakarta on Friday. (Antara Photo/Milla/Setwapres) By : Basten Gokkon | on 6:56 PM September 18, 2015

29 September 2015: Rise of diesel in Europe was to reduce CO2 emissions but resulted in rise in deadly air pollution; How some smokers stay healthy: genetic factors revealed

The rise of diesel in Europe: the impact on health and pollution - In a bid to reduce CO2 emissions in the 90s, Europe backed a major switch from petrol to diesel cars but the result was a rise in deadly air pollution John Vidal Tuesday 22 September 2015 16.57 BST

VW Faces Barrage of Litigation - Plaintiffs’ lawyers move to consolidate suits filed on behalf of consumers By Mike Spector  Updated Sept. 29, 2015 3:25 a.m. ET  Lawyers are moving to consolidate widespread litigation stemming from  Volkswagen AG ’s emissions-cheating scandal, drawing the German auto maker into a prolonged legal case expected to spur rafts of depositions and demands for billions of dollars in damages.
VW urged to come clean over which UK diesel vehicles are affected - Lawyers acting for Volkswagen drivers in UK attack ‘lack of clarity’ as UK prime minister calls company’s actions unacceptable by Julia Kollewe Sunday 27 September 2015 17.50 BST

Take vehicles that fail diesel test off the streets to protect public health - Car industry and the government need to prove that cars can deliver clean emissions for the sake of public health  by Alan Andrews Saturday 26 September 2015 20.49 BST

How some smokers stay healthy: genetic factors revealed - British scientific team have identified certain DNA profiles at lower risk of a range of lung diseases and hope their findings might lead to better treatments; Damien Gayle Monday 28 September 2015 09.59 BST

28 September 2015 - Singapore media on the CIFOR finding on illegal market for burnt peatland, Hisham says haze situation needs to be discussed at regional level, schools closed in several Malaysian states today, graphics and photos and social media


Editor's note: Given the rather awkward multi-hour averaged PM10 measure (resulting in lower readings than many countries using PM2.5 measure with fewer hours average i.e. 1 hour average, 3 hour average) that Malaysia is using for the haze, there is a another “or” criteria of 500 meter visibility to decide on school closure. Lots of friends report being ill recently. Some quite sanguine about it, saying that one has to get exposure and "build immunity to this." At other end of spectrum are those worrying about tobacco equivalence. With severe El Nino outlook now and into mid-2016, just wondering how much time kids can spend in school during the next dry season! Also heard (but not confirmed) that school exams schedule has been shifted. Some KL-ites suffering haze symptoms reporting Zyrtec sold out - pharmacies are still waiting for new stock with new packaging due in November? (Thus, taking a substitute which seems less effective). Your editor has scratchy eyes and nose block after yesterday being somewhere not enclosed (discovered a door was open). More on the Singapore actions and viewpoints  - especially notable is CIFOR report on illegal land burning for sale to small-time investors.

source: accessed 4.43pm today

International media

How you can trade Southeast Asia's haze by Nyshka Chandran Wednesday, 23 Sep 2015 | 9:57 PM ET; ....The price of palm oil has rallied 7 percent in the past fortnight as a cloak of smog, combined with unusually dry weather, disrupts supply in key Southeast Asian producing countries, and analysts say the gains are set to continue....

Something from a reader, from a different perspective...  This is what happens when Harrison Ford meet Indonesian Minister of Foresty  by notfoundher  

Singapore media

Lucrative illegal market for crop land a key cause of fires: Researcher CIFOR  Published 5 hours ago by David Fogarty Assistant Foreign Editor; Dr Purnomo said there is a well- established market for abandoned or conflict land, with land cleared by burning fetching a premium. Using excavators and other heavy equipment to clear the land is costly and time- consuming. "You need to understand that the fire and haze create a lot of money. Quite a lot of money. There is a market for burned land and also it is a way for cheap and quick land preparation for HTI (pulpwood) and oil palm," he told The Straits Times in an interview last week. "Because if you grab the land, the forest - it can be concession land or state land - you can sell it. My research shows that the price is around eight million rupiah (S$800) per hectare. But if you burn that land, the price will increase," he said. "Some people can claim that land and can sell to the network of people. And the buyers can be someone in Jakarta, Bogor, everywhere... It can be 10ha, 20 or even 100ha." Data shows mid-level investors can come from places outside Indonesia, such as Malaysia, he added. According to Dr Purnomo, the price per hectare is US$665 (S$950) after the land is slashed and cut. If the land is burned, the price goes up about US$200 per hectare: a more or less 30 per cent rise. "There is a market for people who mostly prepare for oil palm. You can imagine if they grow the oil palm, after three years, then the price of that land can reach US$3,077 per ha," he said, basing his research on land prices in Sumatra's Riau province.

Singapore clamps down on five firms over haze - Legal action started; govt leaders also speak out against Indonesian officials' comments by Chang Ai-Lien and Audrey Tan, Published Sep 26, 2015, 5:00 am SGT; ...Naming the firms for the first time yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan stressed that the haze was a man-made problem that should not be tolerated. "Ultimately, errant companies must know that there is a price to be paid for damaging our health, environment and economy," he said...yesterday served Singapore-listed firm Asia Pulp and Paper a legal notice to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions. Four Indonesian companies - Rimba Hutani Mas, Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and Wachyuni Mandira - have been told to take measures to extinguish fires on their land, not to start new ones, and submit action plans on how they will prevent future fires.
Under Singapore's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, those guilty can be fined up to $100,000 a day, capped at $2 million, for causing unhealthy haze.....

Indonesia VP Kalla reiterates that Indonesia does not need to apologise to neighbours over haze  Published Sep 25, 2015, 8:02 pm SGT

Malaysia media

7 more delays, 1 cancellation of flights at Kuching airport Published: 28 September 2015 9:27 PM - See more at:

Haze: Hisham falls ill  by t. avineshwaran Updated: Sunday September 27, 2015 MYT 3:30:46 PM  PETALING JAYA: Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has fallen ill because of the haze.  “Jerebu masih teruk (Haze is still terrible) - I have already lost my voice and my nose is blocked,” he tweeted Sunday. He also replied to some tweets on the haze situation and urged people to stay indoors. “I'm asthmatic too - keep him indoors,” he advised a user named @keantee whose son has asthma.  Hishammuddin also agreed that the haze situation should be discussed at regional level as it appears to becoming a yearly affair. The air quality here and in areas like Putrajaya, Port Klang, Shah Alam and Batu Muda has worsened as the API readings reached very unhealthy levels. Schools in several states will also be closed on Monday.

Haze forces some schools to shut  Updated: Monday September 28, 2015 MYT 7:29:13 AM

Planters under fire over haze;.... "Oil palm planters who carry out proper peatland development and water management at their estates should be given a pat on the back for preventing the spread of peat fire. Instead, what we see is a stab in the back of planters. Such false allegations are sinful," Daud said. "Do you know that professional planters practising modern agriculture invest a lot of money in heavy machinery to clear the land, compact the peat soil and dig up a maze of trenches? "This is to compress the peat soil and keep it moist so that the oil palms can grow properly and yield to their potential. Incidentally, this process makes the soil less flammable and retards fire from spreading underground," he said.Most of the oil palm estates in Riau are matured and bearing fruits. "So, why would planters want to set fire and destroy their oil palms?" asked Daud, adding the maze of trenches filled with water at peat area, which are transportation routes in the estates is doubling up as fire barriers, too. When asked to comment on satellite pictures showing many hotspots across Sumatera and Kalimantan as indicative of fiery blaze within plantation concessions, Daud replied, "we must take note that in Indonesia, 20 per cent of the land bank is under the plasma scheme, of which smallholders occupy scattered enclaves within the estates."  He noted that one must not discount the possibility that fire-causing haze could have been started by the local communities for shifting cultivation of cash crops in these enclaves....

Social media

27 September 2015 - Singapore has started legal action against companies associated with the Sumatran fires, the cause is peat zone development, the health impacts - more people die from air pollution than Malaria and HIV/Aids

On Malaysia

Education minister: Schools affected by haze to close if visibility below 500 meters Sunday September 27, 201507:02 PM GMT+8 - See more at:

Malaysian planters in Indonesia not involved in burning, say investors (VIDEO) Sunday September 27, 201506:04 PM GMT+8 - See more at:
Malaysia’s API data not up to par, says PKR rep as haze worsens Published: 27 September 2015 11:23 AM;

Ministry defends API readings, says it abides by international protocols Sunday September 27, 201504:57 PM GMT+8; It stressed that API readings are based on the amount of dust particles measuring smaller than 10 micrometres (PM10) over a 24-hour period — which is then used to calculate the level of risk on public health.... Earlier today, the education ministry ordered the closure of all schools in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur and in the districts of Sri Aman and Kota Samarahan in Sarawak as API readings spiked to unhealthy levels. The haze reading in Shah Alam reached a very unhealthy level with an API of 281, with many parts of the peninsula also registering deteriorating levels. Port Klang also recorded a bad API at 252. - See more at:

DOE says four areas in Peninsula Malaysia record unhealthy API reading Saturday September 26, 201511:39 AM GMT+8 - See more at:

Subang Airport reopens after more than three-hour closure due to haze Saturday September 26, 201510:31 PM GMT+8 - See more at:

From Singapore - on cause of peat smog haze,

**Is S’pore helpless about the haze? Not really September 25, 2015 by Terry Xu in TOC Reports; Are you wondering why companies have gone unpunished despite the yearly forest fires and why Singapore seems to be helpless when it comes to it? Well, one would definitely be puzzled by the above questions given the myths that surround the annual haze faced by Singapore, such as the cause of the haze and Singapore’s inability to take action on foreign land. The root cause of the haze, not trees but peat....Last year, TOC – together with non-governmental organisation, PM Haze – travelled to Riau, Indonesia, to visit the plantations and the government officials to find out the root cause of the smog, and from there, to consider if there could be any viable solutions to the problem.... The first thing that everyone has to understand is that the main culprit of the haze is not the burning of trees or shrubs but peat soil/land. Mere wood and vegetation would not have caused such volumes of smoke over such a long period of time even if it is the whole forest being burned to the ground. The land that Indonesia has leased out to plantation owners are largely peatland, which are swamp full of decomposing organic material which would eventually turn into fossil fuel in another million odd years.... Companies which claim they do not practice slash-and-burn cultivation are telling half-truths because as long as  they drain the peatland of water and leave it unattended, it is just a matter of time and circumstances that the land will catch fire. After the fire have ceased, they can claim ignorance and go ahead with the cultivation. Not to mention that canals are often dug deeper than the allowed depth by the Indonesian government which precipitates the effect. Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace International’s head for the Indonesia Forest’s campaign against the forest fires, said, “Year after year, Indonesia’s forest fires and haze wreak havoc on the region, and the palm oil sector is a main culprit.” He added, “While RSPO members might have no-fire policies, the peat land they have cleared and drained is like a tinderbox – one spark is all it takes.” What can be done is to dam up the canals and allow the peatland to be “wet” again so when someone or a company conducts slash-and-burn, the unattended land would not be burned as well. Of course, in order for that to happen, companies need to be pressured to take action to dam up land that the companies have said that they would not be using, instead of paying lip service of doing so and waiting for the eventuality....

**It’s the tiny things in the haze, not its look or smell, that matter by Linette Lai, Friday, Sep 25, 2015; ..... Air pollution researcher Erik Velasco of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology's Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling said: "The low visibility and acrid smell associated with the haze... are subjective and cannot be used to measure air quality."Instead, one of the best ways to determine how unhealthy the air is in real time is to look at the one-hour PM2.5 levels published by the National Environment Agency (NEA), say experts..... In a study conducted in 2013 - when the three-hour PSI level hit a record 401 during the haze - environmental engineer Rajasekhar Balasubramanian looked at the health risks for a person who has been exposed to haze for a prolonged period of time.He found that if Singapore were to be exposed for 10 days every year for 70 years to air pollution levels similar to those recorded during the June 20 to June 28 haze period, an average of 18 people in a million could get cancer in their lifetimes.He also collected air samples between Sept 12 and Oct 2 when there was no haze. The risk of developing cancer fell to 12 in a million people for the non-haze period.... To put things in perspective, on a day when PM2.5 levels hit 100mcg per cubic m, a person will take in around 1,100mcg of these pollutants if he stays outdoors throughout the day.For comparison, a smoker will inhale between 10,000mcg and 40,000mcg of PM2.5 pollutants for every cigarette consumed.The average healthy person should not be unduly worried about the levels of haze experienced this year, say experts."We should be objective," said respiratory specialist Yap Wee See of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital."When the haze is at a lower level, slight modifications to your lifestyle to reduce exposure are probably enough," said Dr Yap.If PM2.5 readings rise above 100, for example, it might be a good idea to move that evening run to an indoor gym. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic conditions should also take greater care to avoid the haze. - See more at:

Sg Gov’t gets tough with errant companies responsible for haze September 26, 2015; Dr Balakrishnan revealed that the National Environment Agency (NEA) has begun legal proceedings against five companies which it believes are among those responsible for the fires in the Indonesian island of Sumatra and Kalimantan....  On Friday, the NEA served legal papers on Singapore-listed firm, Asia Pulp and Paper, which has an office in Singapore, to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions, the Straits Times reported. Four other companies, all Indonesian ones, have also been issued Preventative Measure Notices, and ordered to take measures to extinguish fires on land which they own, and to prevent new fires from being started. “It cannot be tolerated,” Dr Balakrishnan said. “It has caused major impact on the health, society and economy of our region.”

HAZE – PA to distribute masks, open air-con rooms in RCs and CCs to public September 25, 2015 by Andrew Loh Grassroots volunteers of the People’s Association (PA) will be distributing N95 masks on Friday, 25 September 2015, from 10am to 10pm at all 108 Community Clubs islandwide. These masks will be given to vulnerable and needy Singaporeans and Singapore PRs with blue CHAS Card or Pioneer Generation Card, as well as ComCare recipients above 62 or with longer term medical issues, the PA said on its website. PA Grassroots Volunteers will also organise home visits to residents who are immobile or sick as well as elderly with medical conditions and living alone. The PA said it is also opening its air-conditioned rooms in its Residents’ Committees and Community Clubs to members of the public who may seek respite from the haze which has engulfed Singapore again. The PSI readings reached the “hazardous” level on Thursday.

On health impacts of air pollution

More people die from air pollution than Malaria and HIV/Aids, new study shows - More than 3 million people die prematurely each year from outdoor pollution and without action deaths will double by 2050 by Damian Carrington Wednesday 16 September 2015 18.00 BST

Pollution Killing 9,500 Londoners Revives Mayor’s Heathrow Plea July 15, 2015 — 6:17 PM HKTUpdated on July 15, 2015 — 7:25 PM HKT; ....About 5,900 deaths were the result of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant produced by diesel engines, according to the report released Wednesday by King’s College London for the mayor’s office. The remainder were due to particulate pollution known as PM2.5s....

China Air Pollution Kills 4,000 People a Day: Researchers  by  Alex Morales  August 14, 2015 — 2:00 AM HKT Updated on August 14, 2015 — 1:09 PM HKT; ....Deaths related to the main pollutant, tiny particles known as PM2.5s that can trigger heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and asthma, total 1.6 million a year, or 17 percent of China’s mortality level...

Air pollution causes low birth weight, Beijing study shows - The reduction in air pollution achieved during the 2008 Beijing Olympics resulted in an increase in birth weight, new research has shown by Karl Mathiesen Tuesday 28 April 2015 19.00 BST;... The reduction in air pollution achieved during the 2008 Beijing Olympics resulted in an increase in birth weight, new research has shown...

Chinese Man Sues His Polluted Hometown for Cost of Fighting Smog  February 25, 2014 — 3:45 PM HKT; The lawsuit reflects growing public concern over air pollution in China and smog’s effects on human health. Smog here has reached an “unbearable stage,” the government’s top climate-change adviser, Li Junfeng, said Feb. 23, and the topic is likely to be addressed when the country’s leaders gather March 5 for the annual two-week meeting of the National People’s Congress. “Li Guixin couldn’t take a walk or run like the past as air quality worsened and he also has to wear a mask now when he goes out,” said Wu, who also lives in Shijiazhuang. “His case is relevant for everyone in our city.” ...

Diesel-linked air pollution and VW diesel emissions cheating scandal

U.S. EPA Toughens Emissions Oversight After VW Cheating by  Jeff Plungis September 25, 2015 — 8:42 PM HKTUpdated on September 25, 2015 — 11:58 PM HKT

No Cheating Needed. Europe's Lax Laws Make Diesel Tests a Snap by  Naomi Kresge,  Brian Parkin and Jonathan Stearns  September 23, 2015 — 11:37 PM HKT; Automakers sometimes strip 300 pounds from cars before testing. "This cynical chicanery must end," says an EU lawmaker... The European Union allows manufacturers to optimize results with tactics such as stripping the car of excess weight or removing the air conditioner, according to Tuev Sued, a German company that performs tests for carmakers. Such strategies have contributed to a widening gap between reported results for diesels and the pollution that really comes out of their tailpipes, according to Lucia Caudet, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the regulatory arm of the EU. “Emissions of diesel vehicles measured on the road may in reality substantially, without any wrongdoing, exceed nitrogen oxides measured” in the lab, Caudet said in an e-mail....Europe’s diesel emission levels are already higher than what’s allowed in the U.S. The cars that are tested are called “golden samples” and differ greatly from the vehicles consumers might buy, said Vincenzo Luca, a spokesman for Tuev Sued, the German testing company. After manufacturers strip out various components, the cars typically weigh 100 kg (220 lb) to 150 kg less than production models. “Every legal possibility to reduce emissions is exploited,” Luca said. “We test within the limits of EU law.”...