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The Hazards of Haze

forest fire

The forest fire in Indonesia that began in July caused haze in nearby countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Southern Thailand. Kalimantan (Borneo) and Western Sumatra in Indonesia are among the worst hit areas.

19 people have died, while approximately 500,000 cases of respiratory tract infections were recorded. According to the Indonesian government, damages in the region’s economy may be as high as $47 billion.

The cause is Slash and Burn, a process of forest clearance where land is set on fire in preparation for planting. In the Philippines, this is called as kaingin. Because most part of Indonesia’s forests is made of peat soil, which is highly flammable, fires tend to spread farther.

Reports from Climate Central said that forest fires happen annually in Indonesia, but this year is second to the most prolific burn that has ever been recorded, especially since the El Niño has aggravated it.

According to PAGASA, during the onslaught of Lando (international name Koppu) on October 14 to 21 this year, haze has been reported in some parts of the country, including Zamboanga, Davao, Cotabato and Cebu. Lando blew in winds from Indonesia, causing the haze to spread in the country.

Understanding Haze

Haze, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, is visible when sunlight encounters pollution particles present in the air, reducing the clarity and colors of objects.

Based on the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the haze in the affected areas cause no harm to the community. Although the Department of Health (DOH) announced that the haze-affected air is still safe to breathe, residents are advised to take precautionary measures. Staying indoors with good ventilation and wearing dust masks when going outside the house is highly advisable.

Extreme haze conditions pose health risks. Particulate matter less than 10 micrometers can penetrate the lungs; its effects linked to premature death, difficulty in breathing, and increased respiratory symptoms among children.

The DOH reminds those with cardiovascular diseases that haze can increase respiratory tract infections and cardiac ailments.

Photo Credit: Department of Health
Photo Credit: Department of Health

Haze can also affect industrial sectors. Because it can obscure the clarity of the surroundings and the atmosphere, transportation and tourism may be affected.

According to Climate Central, fire emissions in Indonesia have surpassed Japan’s annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). These contribute to rising global temperatures that may lead to more disastrous events, such as more frequent Super Typhoons and the melting of polar ice caps that could lead to sea level rise.


The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit 2015 currently happening in Manila is setting the stage for greater progress in mitigating Climate Change. Another global Climate Change conference will be held in Paris on November 30 to December 11, 2015. Through these conferences, more and more countries are getting involved in fighting this global concern.

Read more about Climate Change through this link: Climate Clever: 10 Climate Change Terms You Need to Know Now