Indonesia and its neighbors have recently experienced the worst transboundary haze episodes in their history, according to the book Pollution Across Borders: Transboundary Fire, Smoke and Haze in Southeast Asia. The chapter "Indonesia’s Uphill Battle Against Dangerous Land Clearance" explains the three major factors in these haze episodes. First, the palm oil and pulp and paper sectors, which drive most of Indonesia’s land-clearing fires, are booming, with growing demand and more and more land being brought under cultivation. Second, weather patterns are changing, with the source areas for transboundary haze becoming hotter and dryer during high-risk months. And third, policies are not keeping up with business and environmental forces, preventing them from appreciably changing short-term conditions in Indonesian plantations. Time may improve the effectiveness of these mechanisms, but, as recent years and current haze threats demonstrate, they have not yet proven up to the near-term challenge.
Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions