Patronage politics, plantation fires and transboundary haze

Varkkey, H. (2013) Patronage politics, plantation fires and transboundary haze. Environmental Hazards. DOI

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Since 1982, haze pollution has become an almost annual occurrence in Southeast Asia, with the worst episodes being in the period of 1997–1998 and in 2006–2007. Haze originates from peat and forest fires, mostly in Indonesia. The negative effects of haze can be observed at the global level, with increased carbon emissions exacerbating climate change, and more importantly at the regional level, with serious environmental and socioeconomic effects in Indonesia and its neighbouring countries. Most of these fires are manmade, and can be traced back to land clearing activities of commercial oil palm plantations. This article questions why these companies have been able to burn with such impunity, even though using fire for land clearing is against Indonesian law. It argues that local and foreign plantation companies have cultivated strong patronage linkages with key patrons among the ruling elite. Hence, patrons are encouraged to protect their clients from the repercussions of their actions. This weakens the power of the state in terms of law enforcement, where national laws against the use of fire are thus rendered useless in the face of powerful economic interests. Well-connected companies therefore continue to use fire as a cost-efficient way to clear land while disregarding its serious environmental and socioeconomic implications.

Item Type: Article
Funders: University of Malaya, University of Sydney
Uncontrolled Keywords: Haze Pollution; Forest Fires; Oil Palm; Indonesia; Patronage; Environmental Law
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Ms Helena Varkkey
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2013 01:51
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2013 01:51

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