Indonesia primed to go up in smoke

时间:2019-03-07 01:16:00166网络整理admin

By Fred Pearce A MONTH of forest fires in Indonesia has awakened fears of a repeat of the conflagration of two years ago, when a pall of thick smoke stretched from Thailand to New Guinea. Last week Lee Yock Suan, environment minister of neighbouring Singapore, warned that, “should there be a prolonged dry period, the region will be hit by a haze disaster”. Remote sensing satellites have tracked the outbreak of hundreds of fires on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in recent weeks. The fires confirm fears that the extensive blaze across the country two years ago left behind a tinderbox. “After the fire, the open canopy allows greater solar heating and air movement to dry out the forest,” says Mark Cochrane of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. “Second fires are faster moving and much more intense.” The recent fires also underline the fact that Indonesian government policies aimed at curbing the fire-raising habits of plantation owners and logging companies are not working. Last month, the town of Pekanbaru in central Sumatra was blanketed in thick smog for two weeks and the local hospital filled with people suffering from asthma and bronchitis, yet local farmers continued to set fire to the surrounding forests to clear land for new palm oil plantations. Loggers and plantation owners have been taking advantage of a power vacuum in the country to invade national parks, following the fall of President Suharto last year and June’s inconclusive elections. The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency has named sawmill owners whom it claims are behind the illegal logging in Tanjung Puting in Southern Borneo and the Gunung Leuser National Park in northern Sumatra (New Scientist, 3 July,