Indonesian Haze & Fire Season Begins With Disaster Alerts In Four Provinces
Four provinces issued disaster alerts late February, but the Indonesian haze and fire season is not expected to devastate the country like in years past.
Indonesian haze has become a regular environmental disaster due to the unchecked “slash-and-burn” practice of burning forest land for farming. This generations-old process is used by farmers and plantations to clear land, and is a persistent long-term fire hazard.
Disaster alerts issued for four provinces in Indonesia.
Four Indonesian provinces, including the island of Sumatra, announced on February 21, 2018 disaster alerts as 90 fires were identified across affected areas.
The alerts were declared based on the reported numbers of fires, as well as from the country’s disaster management agency. These hotspots were verified by terrestrial and oceanic satellites monitoring the archipelago.
Such declarations allow the affected provinces access to additional personnel, logistics, support and funding from the national government. Even with a significant number of fires, the haze is not expected to spread to Indonesia’s neighbors, Malaysia and Singapore.
Reports stated that a significant number of the fires have started in the region of West Kalimantan.
The current fire crisis is not expected to impact the country as severely as some of the previous years, where damage devastated the country.
Indonesian haze and fire devastated the country in 2015, killing thousands.
The worst Indonesian haze in recent times occurred in 2015, when the smoke spread as far as Vietnam and the Philippines. During that environmental disaster, 140,000 respiratory ailments were reported, with tens of thousands of deaths attributed to the fires. For the 2015 disaster alone, the cost of recovery was estimated at $35 to $47 billion U.S. dollars.
The current crisis is not expected to spread beyond Indonesia’s borders, as the government took extra steps in order to limit potential damage, including banning converting existing peatland for agricultural purposes. The government also built dams around areas of peatland, where canals were constructed to help drain them.
President Widodo commits to better management of the 2018 Indonesian haze and fire season.
Due to embarrassment from the impact of previous forest fires’ resulting haze, Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, tasked authorities to better control the problem in 2018. The President also reached out to the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore to assure them that the latest string of forest fires and haze would not reach their countries.
Since Indonesia is the host of The 2018 Asian Games, there is an added urgency to the country’s efforts to avoid another environmental disaster.