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ASB Partnership Analyzes Impacts of Indonesian Forest Fires

ASBJuly 2013: The ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins has released a policy brief analyzing the local and international impacts of the fire-haze episode straddling the Strait of Malacca in June 2013, with the aim of identifying its source and proposing policy options to minimize further economic losses and carbon emissions.

According to the Alternatives to Slash and Burn (ASB) Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins, the fires in Indonesia have drawn significant attention because of: health-related consequences of the smoke and haze; high pollution levels in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia; and high rates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from burning wood and peat.

The brief underscores that fire hotspots were observed on all levels of palm oil and pulp, as well as paper operations from small to large scale. However, it also notes that about half of the hotspots occurred in areas in which no concession has been granted for such activities.

The brief suggests that different policy solutions are required for peat versus mineral soils based on differing hotspot trends and different interpretations of forests (especially on mineral soils). It also examines the case of operations that fall between traditional and formal management practices, such as in the areas surrounding the Tesso Nilo National Park where local investors bring in expert labor to drive conversion.

The brief concludes that sufficient data are available for governments to act, but that the incentives to stop burning are currently too low and existing regulations concerning the zero burning policy seem to be ineffective.

As such, the brief recommends: greater public availability of data on hotspots and concessions; stronger collaboration between different levels of government; policies to address gaps in land tenure and use rights; the adoption of stronger incentives, such as tax incentives; and the implementation of permit cancellations and other sanctions when rules are broken.

The ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins is a system-wide ecoregional programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) that aims at facilitating partnership in research among CGIAR centres in the tropical forest margins. [Publication: Hot Spots in Riau, Haze in Singapore] [ASB Partnership Website]