More Haze to Come! 70 Forest Fires Found

Nearly 70 forest fires were found by Indonesian authorities, more than half of these fires were recorded in Kalimantan, according to a report by China Press.

News of more forest fires may come as a surprise to most people as it is still rainy season in Indonesia, but be prepared for more hazy days soon. Last year saw one of the worst haze spells in South East Asia in recent times, largely due to the El Nino phenomenon, we now expect more haze early on in 2016.

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This article by the guardian tells us everything wee need to know about the Indonesian forest fires. Below is an excerpt to help us understand the causes.

What is causing the fires?

“Forest fires have become a seasonal phenomenon in Indonesia. At the root of the problem is the practice of forest clearance known as slash and burn, where land is set on fire as a cheaper way to clear it for new planting. Peat soil, which characterises much of the affected areas, is highly flammable, causing localised fires to spread and making them difficult to stop.”

Who is responsible?

“It’s a blame game, with everyone pointing the finger at someone else. Environmental group WWF Indonesia, which has been highlighting the problem of Indonesia’s recurrent fires for years, says that the fires are caused by the “collective negligence” of companies, smallholders and government (which isn’t investing sufficiently in preventative measures).

Many blame big business. According to a recent analysis of World Resources Institute data in September, more than one third (37%) of the fires in Sumatra are occurring on pulpwood concessions. A good proportion of the rest are on or near land used by palm oil producers. “Many of these fires are a direct result of the industrial manipulation of the landscape for plantation development,” says Lindsey Allen, executive director of the conservation organisation Rainforest Action Network.

In September, the Indonesian police arrested seven executives in connection with the fires, including a senior executive from Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH), which supplied Jakarta-based paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

Others look away from the big corporations for blame. According to Henry Purnomo, professor at Indonesia’s Bogor Agricultural University and a scientist at research group CIFOR, there are two culprits: poor small-scale farmers looking to expand their farmland, and rogue operators intent on illegally clearing forests for land acquisition.

Global corporations operating in the area also blame smallholders and under-the-radar companies. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which counts many big palm oil businesses as members, has consistently said that the instances of fire on certified palm plantations in the affected region (which number 137) measure in single digits. Brendan May, chairman of sustainability advisory firm Robertsbridge (which has APP as a client), argues that it’s “not in companies’ best interest” to set fire to their own assets – an argument some campaign groups dispute.” 

Firemen work to contain burning wildfire in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra, Indonesia, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Wildfires caused by illegal land clearing on Indonesia's Sumatra and Borneo islands often spread choking haze into neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. (AP Photo)

Firemen work to contain burning wildfire in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra, Indonesia, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Wildfires caused by illegal land clearing on Indonesia’s Sumatra and Borneo islands often spread choking haze into neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. (AP Photo)

What do you guys think of this recurring problem? What should be done to stop it and by whom? We want to hear from you. Let us know by leaving your comments below.

 

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