Heavy Rain Clears Smoky Haze in Southeast Asia

January 5, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. vast /væst/ (adj.) – describing a large area
Example: They harvested tons of rice from the town’s vast plantations.

2. hazardous /ˈhæz ər dəs/ (adj.) – risky or dangerous
Example: Commuters wore masks to protect themselves from hazardous smoke. 

3. haze /heɪz/ (n.) – very fine dust or smoke particles that hang in the air
Example: It was difficult to see clearly because of the haze from the forest fire.

4. outbreak /ˈaʊtˌbreɪk/ (n.) – a sudden start of something, usually a disease
Example: The outbreak of the disease caused the airport authorities to implement strict measures.

5. compel /kəmˈpɛl/ (v.) – to force to do something
Example: The increasing number of sick people in the area compelled the mayor to set up temporary clinics.


Read the text below.
Vast areas in Southeast Asia finally experienced blue skies again in October last year, after several days of rain.

After being covered by hazardous smoke for two months, haze in parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and other Southeast Asian countries were cleared up by rain. The blanket of smoky haze was caused by the illegal burning of plantation lands in Indonesia.

Since July 2015, a number of fires in various parts of Indonesia were reported, which then spread haze in the Southeast Asian region. In the latter part of October 2015, however, rainfall in Sumatra and Borneo helped reduce the smoke from these fires.

The said haze caused dozens of flight cancellations, suspension of classes, respiratory illnesses, and quickly became an international issue.

Citizens from Indonesia and its neighboring countries expressed their relief after the heavy downpour helped clear up the skies. A picture posted by Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen on Facebook showed blue skies above the Lion City. In Malaysia, citizens were filled with hope because of the rainy season, which put a partial end to the haze outbreak.

Appeals from other Southeast Asian countries compelled Indonesia to quickly address the haze issue. In October, Jakarta made an agreement with international bodies to help the country fight the illegal agricultural fires after its own measures failed. In the same month, environment ministers from ASEAN members met in Hanoi to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, Singapore put much pressure on Indonesia. Singapore’s Environment Minister Masagos Zulkifli said that the Indonesian government should implement stricter measures and more serious punishment for plantation firms.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think implementing stricter rules can help Indonesia address the haze problem? Why or why not?
·         If the haze had reached your country, what action do you think your government would have done?

Discussion B

·         What is the number one pollution problem in your country?
·         Describe an environmental initiative that you consider interesting and effective.

January 5, 2016