July 20 Strong peat land protection only way to keep haze away

July 20 Strong peat land protection only way to keep haze away
In this photograph taken on June 29, 2013 Indonesian workers from a palm oil concession company extinguish forest fire in Kampar district, Riau province on Sumatra island.

SINGAPORE - The Asean haze summit is a world away for those who are still recovering from last month's devastating forest fires and haze.

Take Mr Laskar Harianja, 30, a single father with three children (11, eight, and seven) in Rokan Hilir district in Sumatra.

More than many, he has experienced the brunt of the forest fires that not only engulfed the region with record-breaking air pollution, but also burned away thousands of hectares of land and turned people's lives upside down.

Greenpeace went into the field two weeks ago, believing that the haze wave was affecting those in Sumatra as dramatically as it was Indonesia's neighbours such as Singapore. But what we actually witnessed was far more tragic.

Mr Laskar's wife died in 2009, and he has not remarried. To feed his family, he was relying on a 1ha pineapple farm behind his house. The arrangement allows him to work while looking after his kids. He spent about 10 million rupiah (S$1,200) on the seeds and the maintenance.

When the fruit was ready for harvesting - which would have been early next year - he was hoping to make about 20 million rupiah. With this income, he had promised his young children a bicycle as a special gift. But the children will be waiting for a while longer.

The forest fires destroyed his farm, turning it to dust. His story is one among many. Another family we spoke to said their grandparents died while trying to fight the flames that were creeping onto their lands.

In Dumai, we saw children who were being treated in local hospitals having breathed in air thick with acrid smoke.

Haze in Singapore & Malaysia
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: ST, TNP, The Star, AFP, Reuters)

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