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Smog Spreads in Southeast Asia

Wildfires in Indonesia cause damaging smog in Southeast Asia, primarily in Singapore and southern Malaysia.
Smog from Indonesian spreads. Click map to enlarge
June 24, 2013 - Smog from illegal wildfires in Indonesia has moved from Singapore to Malaysia, prompting emergency measures in that penisula nation.

Last week dense haze from fires in Riau province, Indonesia, drifted across the Singapore Strait to Singapore, a major trading and shipping hub. The small island nation declared a state of emergency and imposed public health regulations in response.

Over the weekend the smog cleared somewhat in Singapore, drifting further north to Johor province of Malaysia. However, Singapore remains concerned that smog could harm the economy, with one economist forecasting a loss of more than $1 billion if the smog persists.

The fires began as farmers and plantations owners in Riau province of Indonesia used slash and burn techniques to clear land for cultivation. Palm oil is a major export agricultural product for the country.

When performed properly, burning off forest is considered by many a sustainable technique because the returns ash returns carbon to the soil. But this year improper burning caused fires to spread out of control. Indonesia has begun to make arrests for illegal burning.