Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Sustainability Case Studies--Chapter 3. Policy Design for Sustainability at Multiple Scales: The Case of Transboundary Haze Pollution in Southeast Asia

Haze in Singapore. Click for photo credit.
This is the third post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability:  Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the chapter review.

Today's post focuses on Chapter 3 by Ishani Mukherjee titled, Policy Design for Sustainability at Multiple Scales:  The Case of Transboundary Haze Pollution in Southeast Asia. Dr. Mukherjee is with the Institute of Water Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

The chapter begins with a review of transboundary pollution issues. What is interesting about this topic is that transboundary issues can occur at different scales. Readers from the northern Great Lakes States in the United States understand this issue quite well. For example, air pollution produced in Milwaukee, Wisconsin can impact Canada. It can also impact neighboring downwind states like Illinois and Michigan. At the same time, the pollution can also have city/country border issues that require deft policy management.

Of course, Mukherjee focuses her work in Southeast Asia where burning of forests in Indonesia for land clearing has created regional smokey haze air pollution . In the background section of the chapter, Mukherjee reviews the haze problem in the region and also summarizes a variety of policy initiatives that have been instituted by Singapore and by cooperating national entities.

A peat fire in Indonesia. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR.
Click for photo credit.
The chapter continues with a deep discussion of the case study. The first part of the case study summarizes the costs of deforestation and haze in Indonesia. Many of the losses are due to the highly unregulated use of fire to clear land. Plus, there are untold costs due to the rampant destruction of plants and animals.

The second part of the case study focuses on the impacts of the haze and smoke on Southeast Asian Countries. A variety of countries are impacted by the haze including Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. The situation has gotten so bad that the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Countries) group has addressed the issue within its governance.

The final part of the case study highlights the linkages with deforestation in Southeast Asia and climate change. As the author notes, emissions from the region have increased dramatically, in part due to the heavy burning of forested lands. Thus, forest conservation and reforestation are important issues in the region.

The chapter concludes (as do most of the chapters in the book) with a section on lessons learned and future challenges. Clearly one of the most important lessons learned is that major carbon sinks are being destroyed in Indonesia and the burning of these sinks is creating regional air pollution problems throughout Southeast Asia. The chapter reveals many future challenges, including challenges with governmental cooperation as well as in finding better ways to value ecosystems and carbon sinks in the region.


Click here to for more information about the book.

Here are some discussion questions for teaching about the deforestation and pollution problems outlined in this chapter:

1. Given Indonesia's location, why is burning forests a problem for Southeast Asian Countries?
2. What type of agriculture is replacing the natural ecosystems of Indonesia?
3. Air pollution is a very common type of transboundary air pollution problem. What other types of transboundary pollutants can you think of that cause challenges to occur among countries, states, or cities?
4. What counties are members of ASEAN? What is the purpose of ASEAN?
5. Describe Singapore's response to the haze problem?
6. Describe ASEAN's response to the haze problem?
7. Why should people outside of Southeast Asia be concerned about the deforestation in the region?
8. How would you try to solve the haze problem in the region?

Previous posts in this series:

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