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Opinion: Phuket gazing through the haze

PHUKET: Distressed islanders have joined residents and tourists throughout Southern Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore in crying foul at Indonesia for the fires and subsequent smoke and haze blanketing, and choking, the region in recent weeks.

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By The Phuket News

Sunday 11 October 2015, 11:16AM


Though the haze is an annual occurrence, this year is reported to be the worst in recent memory, if not recorded history.

In getting to the bottom of the issue, there are many direct and indirect factors that should be considered – some more predictable and manageable than others. Unfortunately for Phuket and the rest of Southern Thailand, we’re in a downwind path of the southwesterly and southerly smoke,and the winds won’t be reversing course until at least next month.

So we need to take a closer look at the source: fires from ageold slash-and-burn methods for clearing and replenishing agricultural land; the problem is compounded this year by “drier-than-usual” conditions brought on by El Niño and climate change.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s bustling palm oil industry has come under fire.

As the world’s largest producer of the versatile commodity, Indonesia last year produced some 33 million metric tonnes (MT) – 66% more than the second largest producer, Malaysia (19.8 MT) and 16.5 times more than the world’s third-largest producer, Thailand (2MT).

Indeed, palm oil production by Asean’s largest economy has skyrocketed, growing nearly 30-fold over a 30-year period from 1984 to 2014.

But The Phuket News urges readers not to be so quick to focus their angst on any single sector or country, but to first take a step back and examine the bigger picture.

Let us not forget that, like in any market, it is demand – by consumers – which drives supply and thus production and market growth. The case of palm oil is only one of a handful that has forced us to examine production and supply chains with more scrutiny in respect to major regional and global market developments.

Indeed, similar issues have been raised recently in other key Asean
industries – namely rice, rubber and seafood –where there is a lot at stake when “best practices”
are sidelined for profit.

In moving forward, it will all come down to the sustainability of a triple-bottom line as energy and food supplies are further developed and exploited to meet growing global demand.

And through our everyday choices today, we all will play a major role in tomorrow.

 

 

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