As Port Klang API soars to 493, plantation firms pass the buck


Update (25 June, 5.00pm): Port Klang – 484, Seri Manjung – 333.

Update (25 June, 10.00am): Port Klang – 493; Seri Manjung – 322; Shah Alam – 301.

Update (25 June, 7.00am): Port Klang – 487; Seri Manjung, Banting, Shah Alam approaching hazardous levels.

24 June: Where does the buck stop? Denials from big plantation companies that they are responsibile for the smog emergency have been coming in thick and fast as the wind blows the dense smog up the peninsula.

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Source: NEA

What is happening now is environmental crime.

The standard response has been to blame local communities and smallholders in Sumatra for the clear-cutting and slash-and-burn tactics. It is easy to blame the small guys/local farmers/local communities, etc when they are unable to respond in the media.

Yet, an overlay map of Sumatra shows that there is a close correlation between the hotspots (where the burning is taking place) and the concession areas for oil palm plantations and timber.

I spoke to two people to try and figure out what is really going on.

The first person was an automotive engineer who used to visit many plantation estates in Sumatra to check on their vehicles and workshops. He is convinced that the big companies are ultimately responsible for the open burning. What happens he says is that these companies obtain concessions covering large tracts of land. But parts of this concession areas are invariably inhabited by local communities.

So, the large companies then engage some of these local communities to clear the land for them – sort of like outsourcing the land-clearing. And then these local communities do it in the easiest or cheapest way possible. Moreover, the local people often do not have the expertise for replanting, which the large companies possess. But because it is the local communities doing the clearing, the large companies are able to wash their hands and pass the buck to the local communities.

The other person I spoke to is a consultant for a downstream palm oil processing firm who has worked many years in the palm oil industry in Malaysia and abroad. He said it is well known in industry circles that the big boys are ultimately responsible for a lot of the burning. But nobody is willing to come out openly to say it as they are looking out for their ‘rice bowl’.

Agree or disagree? If you have any experience or familiarity with what is happening in Sumatra and in plantations in the region, please share with us in the comments below.

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25 Jun 2013 9.39pm

More passing the buck here in Malaysia itself?

As in fire at a “6.41 hectare farm in Taman Johan Setia since Thursday”… with 3 out of 4 sectors still burning?

Taman Johan Setiua is about 5 miles from the centre of Klang, so I’d wonder howmuch of the 493 API was aresult of the smoke from that fire?

And apparently the Selangor state government has already opened investigation papers “to charge 12 land owners involved in burning activities in their land”.

Read the details here:

Agricultural Activities Source Of Forest Fire In Johan Setia

25 Jun 2013 8.47pm
25 Jun 2013 5.34pm

Haze or no haze, I hope Penangites still go out to enjoy their street food. Right, tunglang? On the subject of hawker food, Internationally acclaimed Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay (of MasterChef & Hell’s Kitchen fame)has accepted a challenge by Singapore food bloggers and SingTel, to take on Singapore’s hawkers in a culinary contest. The hawkers will be determined by the results of a dedicated SingTel food poll, voted by Singapore food lovers. This is certainly a good publicity and gimmick to introduce Singapore hawker food to the world. Perhaps our TM or Maxis or Digi could do likewise? Definitely… Read more »

semuanya OK kot
semuanya OK kot
25 Jun 2013 4.05pm

Why is the news media so quiet on the fires in Johor and Sarawak? Why is the Indon gomen still investigating after 20 years?

25 Jun 2013 11.37am

Dear all. I have been working in the plantation sector in Indonesia for the last 30 over years and I have been to many parts of Indonesia in the course of my work. Many years ago, yes the plantation sectors resort to burning because it was cheap, easy and fast. With the introduction of new rules and regulations enforcement by the DOE became more stringent. As far as I have observed Plantations do not resort to burning anymore when they are establishing new areas for planting or doing replanting. For new areas and for replanting mechanical means are employed such… Read more »

25 Jun 2013 10.08am

It is disgusting to note that no actions have been taken against those culprits that cause the haze although it happens yearly. What we need is for Indonesia to walk the talk and take a stern actions against those companies that light the fire to clear their lands for re-cultivation irrespective of the origin of these establishments. Afterall they are the one that cause health hazards to millions of citizens around the ASEAN countries to choke.

25 Jun 2013 9.16am

FMT News: Political patronage protecting haze culprits Many Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean firms, accused of causing the haze in Sumatra have been able to evade official investigation by Jakarta due their strong political connections. Making these allegations, former DAP senator S Ramakrishnan said the widespread practice of patronage politics had enabled these companies to act with impunity, even in the face of open burning allegations by civil society. He claimed that the Malaysian and Singaporean companies especially were government-linked corporations (GLCs) or linked to powerful political elites back home. He said it can be inferred that these political elites were… Read more »

25 Jun 2013 7.35am

Ghani Othman, former Johor MB has been selected SD new Chairman, let us go smog his Office and see if he will move the earth!

Indons are known to be corrupt and will do anything for money, just as their Malaysian counterparts. Leaders there and here merely, give lip service No solution for the past 20 years! Indons won’t even ratify a ASEAN Treaty on trans-border Pollution, already signed 12 years ago!

So the suffering Public cannot take to the Streets but shake their MPs in Parliament!

25 Jun 2013 12.32am

In the Indonesian side, the authorities must take actions according their law irrespective of where the MNCs are based. On our side…I remember working with a MNC which the HQ based in the USA, and later changed the base to Switzerland. The Malaysian chapter of the Company has to follow strictly the business ethics and programs including CSR according to the HQ’s…even though a lot of internal regulations and programs are of higher standard than the ethics and laws applicable in Malaysia. Any non-conformance, even though still tolerated here in Malaysia is considered breach of regulations and the Company is… Read more »

24 Jun 2013 10.22pm

Passing the buck? How about 46 hectares of plantations in Muar on fire, and firemen only able to put out 12 hectares so far, and the remaining 34 still pumping out smoke?

Any link to the 746 API in Muar yesterday? How much of that smoke actually came from Indonesian fires?

Read the Bernama report at:

Fire-fighters facing uphill task putting out fire in plantation in Muar

24 Jun 2013 9.39pm

So what is the government doing when its people are suffering and to take a few commited people to find out.

24 Jun 2013 8.45pm

Whether its Malaysian companies or not, denial or not, its the duty of the Indonesian govt to stop and control the burning in their country. They cannot be so irresponsible to say the Singaporean minister and govt as childish when the health and environment of the country is affected. May they regards their own people lives and health are not important.