July 2 For Riau's farmers, livelihood trumps haze

July 2 For Riau's farmers, livelihood trumps haze

RIAU - All a poor farmer needs is just a match to start a fire.

That fire could spread quickly across forest plantations, especially during the dry season.

Once the land has been cleared, the farmer can start planting crops, which he will later sell to feed himself and his family.

But try telling the farmer not to light up; or tell him to pay $2,000 for excavators to clear the land instead.

Or tell him to find other means to feed his family.

He is, in all likelihood, going to ignore you.

During a recent assignment to Riau - ground zero of the haze which blanketed much of the region - The Sunday Times team met many such farmers.

They are poor, unskilled and rely on farming to feed their families.

These farmers have, for generations, been burning land to clear it for the next planting season.

They live and breathe the haze, year after year.

When I tried to tell them about the hazardous levels of the Pollutant Standards Index, I sounded as alien to them as I looked in my N95 mask.

Many do not think they are doing anything wrong, or that their routine acts have contributed regularly to the thick haze enveloping the region.

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