Southeast Asian haze

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The Southeast Asian haze is a fire-related large-scale air pollution problem that occurs regularly. These haze events have caused adverse health and economic impact on Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and to a lesser degree, The Philippines and Thailand.[1]

Traditionally, the large multinational corporations had been blamed, but in recent years the small- to medium-size plantations have been found to start the majority of fires.[2]

The problem flares up every dry season, in varying degrees, and affects Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, southern Thailand, and Indonesia. Rice paddy burning is also a common practice throughout Southeast Asia, resulting in poor air quality at a local level.


Most haze events have resulted from smoke from fires that occurred on peatlands in Sumatra and the Kalimantan region of Borneo island.[3]

Undisturbed humid tropical forests are considered to be very resistant to fire, experiencing rare fires only during extraordinary dry periods.[4]

A study published in 2005 concluded that there is no single dominant cause of fire in a particular site and there are wide differences in the causes of fires in different sites. The study identified the following direct and indirect causes of fire.[5]

Direct causes of fire[edit]

  • Fire as a tool in land clearing
  • Fire as a weapon in land tenure or land use disputes
  • Accidental or escaped fires
  • Fire connected with resource extraction

Indirect causes of fire[edit]

  • Land tenure and land use allocation conflicts and competition
  • Forest degrading practices
  • Economic incentives/disincentives
  • Population growth and migration
  • Inadequate fire fighting and management capacity

Role of peat[edit]

In 2009, around 40% of all fires in Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and Java were detected in peatlands, even though they cover only 10% of the land area.[4]


Haze related damages can be attributed to two sources: the haze causing fire and the haze itself. Each of the two factors can create significant disruption to people's daily lives and affect people's health. As a whole the recurring haze incidents affected regional economy and generated contention between governments of nations affected.

Fire damages[edit]

The haze causing fire can cause a multitude of damages that are local as well as transboundary. These include loss of direct and indirect forest benefits, timber, agricultural products and biodiversity. The fires also incur significant firefighting costs and carbon release to the atmosphere.[6]

Haze damages[edit]

Some of the more direct damages caused by haze include damage to people's short term health and regional tourism during haze period. The haze also leads to industrial production losses, airline and airport losses, fishing decline, and incurs costs on cloud seeding. In addition, severe haze weather can lead to long-term health damages, reduced crop productivity, aesthetic value of reduced visibility, avertive expenditures, accidents, loss of life, evacuations, and loss of confidence by foreign investors.[7]

Health effects of haze[edit]

The health effects of haze are mainly caused by the irritant effects of fine dust particles on the nose, throat, airways, skin and eyes. The health effects of haze will depend on its severity as measured by the Pollutants Standards Index (PSI). There is also individual variation regarding the ability to tolerate air pollution. Most people would at most experience sneezing, running nose, eye irritation, dry throat and dry cough from the pollutants. They are mild and pose no danger to the health of the general population.

However, persons with medical problems like asthma, chronic lung disease, chronic sinusitis and allergic skin conditions are likely to be more affected by the haze and they may experience more severe symptoms. Children and the elderly in general are more likely to be affected. For some, symptoms may worsen with physical activities.[8]


It generally refers to haze occurring in Southeast Asia. In specific intense cases, it may refer to:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Regional Haze Action Plan". Haze Action Online. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Heil, A.; Goldammer, J. G. (1 August 2001). "Smoke-haze pollution: a review of the 1997 episode in Southeast Asia". Regional Environmental Change 2 (1): 24–37. doi:10.1007/s101130100021. 
  4. ^ a b Miettinen, Jukka; Shi, Chenghua; Liew, Soo Chin (17 June 2010). "Influence of peatland and land cover distribution on fire regimes in insular Southeast Asia". Regional Environmental Change 11 (1): 191–201. doi:10.1007/s10113-010-0131-7. 
  5. ^ Dennis, Rona A.; Mayer, Judith; Applegate, Grahame; Chokkalingam, Unna; Colfer, Carol J. Pierce; Kurniawan, Iwan; Lachowski, Henry; Maus, Paul; Permana, Rizki Pandu; Ruchiat, Yayat; Stolle, Fred; Suyanto, ; Tomich, Thomas P. (August 2005). "Fire, People and Pixels: Linking Social Science and Remote Sensing to Understand Underlying Causes and Impacts of Fires in Indonesia". Human Ecology 33 (4): 465–504. doi:10.1007/s10745-005-5156-z. 
  6. ^ edited by David Glover & Timothy Jessup (2006). Indonesia's fires and haze the cost of catastrophe (Reprint 2006 with update. ed.). Ottawa: International Development Research Centre. ISBN 1-55250-332-1. 
  7. ^ edited by David Glover & Timothy Jessup (2006). Indonesia's fires and haze the cost of catastrophe (Reprint 2006 with update. ed.). Ottawa: International Development Research Centre. ISBN 1-55250-332-1. 
  8. ^ "Health Effects Of Haze". Ministry of Health Singapore. Retrieved 11 April 2014.