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Borneo forest fires as worse as Amazon’s

September 14, 2019

PEKANBARU: With fierce blazes raging in jungles from the Amazon to Indonesia, concerns are mounting that the Asian rage is comparable to the Brazil situation, which is over 16,000 kilometers away.

The latest serious outbreak is in Indonesia’s Borneo island, where smog-belching fires started to clear land for agriculture are burning out of control, blanketing the region in toxic smog.

Indonesia’s forest fires are an annual problem, but have been worsened this year by particularly dry weather, and in recent days sent toxic smog floating over Malaysia and triggered a diplomatic row.

The number of “hotspots’’ — areas of intense heat detected by satellite which indicate a high chance of fire — jumped sharply in Indonesia on Wednesday, according to the Singapore-based Association of South East Asian Nations’ Specialized Meteorological Center.

FIRE AGAIN Indonesian firefighters spray water to help extinguish a fire in Kampar, Riau province. The number of blazes in Indonesia’s rainforests has jumped sharply, satellite data showed, and many believe it is as worse as that of Amazon. AFP PHOTO

There were 1,619 hotspots detected on the Indonesian part of Borneo and Sumatra up from 861 a day earlier, according to a tally from the center, which monitors forest fires and smog outbreaks.

Kiki Taufik, a forests campaigner with Greenpeace in Indonesia, told the Agence France-Presse there had been little rain in the past fortnight, particularly on Indonesian Borneo which saw the sharpest increase in hotspots.

He is convinced the forest fires would worsen like that in Amazon if no rains occur and firefighters would not be aggressive in putting out the fire.

Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Why are rainforests important in fight against global warming?

Mankind’s reliance on fossil fuels usually receives much of the blame for climate change, but scientists say deforestation had also played a big role.

Forests are natural buffers against climate change, as they suck greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

But forests worldwide have been logged on an industrial-scale over the decades for timber and to make way for agricultural plantations.

Burning of large expanses of trees also releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

At the peak of Indonesia’s 2015 forest fires — the worst in the country for two decades — the country spewed more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each day than all US economic activity for the same period, according to environmental watchdog the World Resources Institute.

How much of Indonesia’s rainforests have been destroyed?

Greenpeace estimates that in the past 50 years, more than 74 million hectares (182 million acres) of Indonesia’s biodiversity rainforests — an area twice the size of Germany — have been chopped down, degraded or burned.

They have often been destroyed to make way for plantations for the lucrative palm oil and pulpwood industries, particularly on Sumatra and Borneo islands, with fires often started illegally to clear land.

Indonesia suffers forest fires annually, but this year’s appear to be the worst since 2015. The country’s disaster agency estimates that from January to August, about 328,000 hectares (810,000 acres) of land was burned.

The country has, however, managed to slow the rate of deforestation in recent years.

Why are they burning and can it be stopped?

Farmers and plantation owners are usually blamed for starting the fires as a quick and cheap way to clear land.

Major companies typically deny starting blazes and instead point to small-scale farmers and villagers. The most serious fires occur in peatlands, which are highly combustible when drained of water to be converted into plantations.

The situation this year has been worsened by drier weather in Indonesia. Authorities have deployed thousands of security forces to battle the blazes but most believe only the start of the rainy season — usually in October — will douse them.

After the 2015 fires, President Joko Widodo’s government took steps to prevent a repeat of the catastrophe.

AFP/AP

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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