In Kuala Lumpur, it seems as though we have decided to make haze a part of our daily lives. Just when it seemed safe to take a deep breath of what we call ‘fresh air’, the smoky haze covers the region again.
Haze originates from the smoke of large-scale forest and land fires that usually drifts towards Singapore and Malaysia. But when the haze gets really bad, governments, politicians, NGOs and the media outlets in South-East Asian countries begin to point fingers. Sometimes their views are based on facts, but most times, these are just educated guesses. For the most part, the fingers are always pointed at oil palm plantations, pulp and paper plantations, smallholders, shifting cultivation, and sometimes even at RSPO members.
But the blame game can come to an end now because we are able to determine the origin of the haze hotspots. In 2014, World Resources Institute and the RSPO collaborated to create a map that was intended to make the palm oil supply chain more transparent. The map, accessible at www.globalforestwatch.org, shows land concessions granted by governments, deforestation (and reforestation), active fires, and plantations that have been certified as sustainable.
The data indicated in the map, sourced by NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the website, can now identify with high confidence the fires that occur in oil palm concessions and RSPO certified oil palm concession areas.
Now that the data has been made available, we can easily identify occurrence of fire and its frequency. When we pulled out the analysed data, for the period 1st January 2015 to 24th August 2015, here’s what the RSPO found.
This is a result of the collective effort of the laws imposed and the criteria set for certification by the RSPO, which has had an overall positive impact. RSPO’s Principles and Criteria for sustainable palm oil, including guidelines for best management practices for existing plantations (including zero burning methods) have proved the effectiveness of certified palm oil concessions.
The journey of transforming markets may never be a smooth one as the challenges and criticisms never cease. The RSPO will continue to encourage our members to foster the development and application of best management practices, and ultimately be part of our sustainable development plans.
By Letchumi Achanah
RSPO Communications Manager