By: B. Goode
The PSI reading as of the time of writing is : So bad that my eyes water.
It is so bad that I can no longer see clearly what the next-block auntie is doing in the kitchen. I used to watch her…oh never mind. I digress.
It has been close to two weeks since a multi-nation operation to douse the flame in Riau. And of course, Singapore is involved. Why not? It is an opportunity to show the world that we care, but most importantly it is an opportunity to show the people of Singapore that the government is doing something apart from just complaining.
Doesn’t matter if that `something’ is, to put it mildly, foolish.
What can water bombing do to a raging forest fire involving thousands of acres of peat soil? It is like trying to douse the flame from the charcoal in a barbeque pit using the bottle sprinkler that you use when ironing. Try it. It works wonders in creating more……smoke.
I do not want to sound too obvious but the fires in Riau are not like the ordinary bush fires that you see in Singapore. They are from deep within the ground. Smouldering and eating its way through kilometers of peat.
You know what is peat? it is like charcoal only softer. A result of thousands of years of fallen leaves and timber that have accumulated and turned to flammable, slow burning substance.
You cannot stop peat fire by half-assed water bombing. The only way to stop it is to totally smother it with water. Something that only the rain God can do. And if the rain God is reluctant, then you will have to depend on the wind God to shift the wind direction away from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.
Unfortunately, both of the Gods are old Gods. And them being old, they are set in their habits. It is like asking your grandfather not to sit in his favourite chair when watching TV. Try it.
So what do you do? You have to pray to a God that is new. The money God. Unfortunately, the money God is now on the side of the corporations and the Indonesian government.
What I am trying to say is that the fires and the resulting haze is a result of greed. The land is being cleared in the cheapest way possible to open it up for palm oil plantations. It provides jobs for thousands of Indonesians. It provides profits to the corporations. It provides export revenues for the Indonesian government.
So unless Singapore and the countries affected by the haze is willing to fork out billions of dollars to pay for the loss of income to the thousands of farmers involved in land clearing to tell them not to burn the forest. And unless the countries are willing to pay for expensive palm oil as a result of more environmentally-friendly but expensive land clearing mechanics, there is nothing that anybody can do.
Water bombing is a waste of money and time. If ever, the millions of dollars poured into the operation only serve to subsidise further the palm-oil industry. Those involved in the palm-oil industry should be responsible to put out the fires. Not Singapore. Not Russia. Not anybody.
In short, the palm oil players will continue to burn the forest knowing that some governments will be too eager to put out the flames for them for free!
Singapore minister of defence recently said that the SAF has worked hard to put out the fires but they are hoping for rain.
So why waste money on something that is practically useless?
I’d say. Stop the operation. Use the money instead to provide free masks to Singaporeans and perhaps to even provide air-purification units to families with members who are susceptible to haze and smoke.
Or pay that guy with the coconuts and bamboo binoculars to stop the fires. The chance of him succeeding is roughly the same as water bombing.