Palm oil companies behind S'pore smog: Greenpeace

Palm oil companies behind S'pore smog: Greenpeace

JAKARTA - Forest fires in Indonesia, which have cloaked Singapore in record-breaking smog, are raging on palm oil plantations owned by Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean companies, environmental group Greenpeace said yesterday.

Singapore's worst environmental crisis in more than a decade has seen the acrid smoke creep into people's flats and shroud residential blocks as well as downtown skyscrapers, and the island's prime minister has warned it could last weeks.

"NASA hotspot data in (Indonesia's) Sumatra over the past 10 days (11-21 June) has revealed hundreds of fire hotspots in oil palm concessions that are owned by Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean companies," the group said in a statement.

Singapore's smog index hit the critical 400 level on Friday, making it potentially life-threatening to the ill and elderly, a government monitoring site said. On Saturday morning, the reading was at 323, still in the "hazardous" zone.

Parts of Malaysia close to Singapore have also been severely affected by the smog this week. "Fires across Sumatra are wreaking havoc for millions of people in the region and destroying the climate.

"Palm oil producers must immediately deploy fire crews to extinguish these fires. But really cleaning up their act starts with adopting a zero deforestation policy," said Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace Indonesia's forest campaign.

Indonesia is the world's top producer of palm oil, which is used for many everyday items such as soap and biscuits. The country's carbon-rich rainforests and peatlands have for decades been wiped out to extract the timber as well as to clear the land for palm oil plantations and mining activities.

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