The Haze: Nothing much we can do

Firefighters spray water on the burning land in Marpoyan Damai sub district, in the outskirts of Pekanbaru, in Indonesia's Riau province June 20, 2013

SINGAPORE - Most Singaporeans, I guess, would agree with the comments by Mr Eugene Wee in "Stop giving excuses" (The New Paper, June 19) but we should soften our criticism because there is not much that can be done in these circumstances.

Indonesia is vast, with huge estates of oil palm that cater to world demand. The cheapest and fastest way to clear land for these plantations is to burn the vegetation.

The Indonesian authorities know the problems and so do our leaders.

It is dangerous and costly to put out the raging fires. So the fires are left to burn themselves out over time - unfortunately polluting our air if the wind blows the smoke this way.

We have to understand that this is a bread-and-butter issue for many farmers, who have used the slash-and-burn method for generations.

The authorities there will have to consider the political implications of punishing the farmers, not to mention the multinational corporations that could have contributed to the fires.

One solution could be to get investments from affected countries to fund projects that will enable these poor farmers to find alternatives to their traditional ways and, in the process, reduce the burning.

But this is easier said than done.

Indonesia has been a good neighbour since the period of confrontation decades ago and has contributed to Singapore's growth in many sectors.

So let us live and let live, put up with some discomfort and pray for rain or a change in wind direction that can give us better air.

Reader Loo Voon Choy

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