A burning issue

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Palm oil popularity has surfaced for its promise as a biofuel, but the environmental cost of producing palm oil is environmentally catastrophic. The oil is used for everything from margarine to cosmetics and exported worldwide. The two largest producers, Malaysia and Indonesia, are set to expand their oil palm plantations even further. Diverse, tropical rainforest are being burned to make way for the monoculture palm. The biofuel boom is spurring companies to turn more and more of these vast areas into oil palm plantations. For instance, between 1985 and 2000, 87% of all deforestation in Malaysia was due to oil palm plantations. Species extinction spasm due to forest fires are of planetary proportions and the effect to human beings is also substantial. Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) of Asian cities typically cross 100 and the risk of respiratory distress and disease, lung cancer and others increase. Oil palm plantations make the land itself hazardous as well. They drain the wetland areas because oil palmneeds it less humid to be able to grow properly. Hotter and also extreme weather conditions are also the result of excessive forest burning. While laws on forest burning are well established, enforcement has not fared good so far. Meanwhile, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and other representatives from South East Asian countries met last November to set policy and budgets for dealing with burns and haze. They then set aside funds to provide incentives to farmers to abandon slash-and-burn land clearing and strengthen enforcement.

Augustyn H.



Secondary Title

World Watch









biofuel, burning, deforestation, environmental policy, rainforest, sustainable development, tropical forest, wetland, Asia, Eurasia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Elaeis

Form: Journal Article
Geographical Area: Malaysia, Indonesia

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