Claim- A World Bank education policy analyst has claimed in The Diplomat that the blame for last year’s haze crisis on global “rapacious palm oil companies” and demand for “dirty palm oil”.


The article in The Diplomat is replete with untruths and previously-debunked claims.  The most egregious is the attempt to blame palm oil. It is a lazy conclusion, that ignores clear evidence to the contrary.

It is generally understood by forest and environment experts in the field that the causes of the fires are complex. However, even a basic look at the available satellite data for Sumatra – the region identified in the article – indicates that just 7 per cent of fire alerts in Sumatra in 2015 were in palm oil concessions. A full 36 per cent were in timber and pulpwood concessions. A large percentage of the fires within concessions were a result of the actions of small farmers.  Researchers estimate that in Sumatra around half of all burned area was occupied – illegally — by small farmers. 57 per cent were completely outside of concessions.

In other words, around 3.5 per cent of fire alerts in Sumatra in 2015 can be attributed to ‘rapacious palm oil companies’. The article’s aggressive hyperbole is totally fact-free.

Even the secondary claims in the article are inaccurate. The claims of 90,000 deaths has been disproved already; and the claims of inaction from Singapore and Malaysia are also untrue. One example stands out: Singapore imposed penalties primarily on paper companies (not palm oil companies) during the 2015 haze event.