SEPTEMBER 23, 1997
Due to an out-of-control brush fire in Indonesia, a heavy smog has covered large portions of Indonesia and Malaysia. Following a background report from ITN, Jim Lehrer discusses the situation with Tony Whitten, a biodiversity specialist at the World Bank; and Don Henry, director of the Global Forest Program at the World Wildlife Fund.
JIM LEHRER: A heavy haze grew worse today over parts of Asia. It was triggered days ago by widespread forests and scrub fires in Indonesia. Health concerns spread with it to Malaysia, Singapore, Brunai, and the Southern Philippines. Mark Austin of Independent Television News reports from the city of Kuching in Borneo.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
September 24, 1997
Jim Lehrer leads a discussion about the causes and possible solutions to the smog problem.
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's page on El Niño.
MARK AUSTIN: Kuching is a city thatís suffocating,a city covered in a blanket of pollution, pollution so dangerous that the authorities here have had no choice but to declare a state of emergency.
For the 600,000 people of Kuching trying to go about their lives, with every breath they take they inhale a dangerous concoction of poisons. Experts say a single dayís exposure to the air here is the equivalent of smoking more than 40 cigarettes.
They try to protect themselves as best they can, but the people believe the children in particular are suffering long-term damage. It should be a time of sunny days and blue skies here in Kuching. Weíve only been here a couple of hours, and already our eyes are irritated, and itís increasingly uncomfortable to breathe. For the people who live here itís been going on for two weeks, and it could go on for many more. This, their only defense in whatís rapidly become the most polluted city in the world. The Malaysians are victims of their own economic boom, but the real problem are these fires burning out of control hundreds of miles away in neighboring Indonesia.
JIM LEHRER: The fires have been caused by slashing and burn land clearing and by a drought brought on by the weather condition called El Niño that is delaying monsoon rains.