Greenpeace has released a series of photos from the front lines of the peat fires that are casting a pall of haze and triggering health warnings across Singapore and Malaysia.
The images were taken by Getty photographer Ulet Infansasti in Sumatra, where the fires are burning. Greenpeace also released photographs taken by Ferina Natasya in Singapore, where the haze is causing record air pollution.
Analysis of NASA hotspot data has revealed that the majority of fires are occurring within plantation concessions operated by palm oil and timber companies. Fire is often used to clear land and burn waste on industrial plantations.
The trouble is the fires are predominantly located on peatlands, which contain vast deposits of organic material. When dried peat is set align, fires can be exceedingly difficult to extinguish, sometimes burning for weeks to months underground. Only heavy rains can put out deep peat fires, but the dry season typically runs through September or October, meaning the haze could last for weeks.
Peat fires are also a substantial source of carbon emissions. The 1997-1998 mega-fires in Sumatra and Borneo released up to 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, or more than 10 percent of global emissions in 1997.
Forest destruction in Riau Province, Indonesia on 06/23/2013. Greenpeace is calling on concession holders to urgently extinguish fires on their land, immediately stop the drainage and development on peat and natural forests and ensure palm oil in their supply chains is free from forest destruction.
A firefighter braves the smoke caused by the forest fires in Riau Province, Indonesia on 06/23/2013. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Firefighter in Riau Province, Indonesia on 06/23/2013. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
A Greenpeace activist bears witness to forest destruction in Riau Province, Indonesia. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
A firefighter surveys an area of peat fire in Riau Province, Indonesia
An excavator creates a canal in Riau Province, Indonesia, despite the heavy smoke caused by the forest fires. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Villagers wear masks to protect themselves from air pollution as they drive through haze caused by forest fires in Sontang Village in Rokan Hulu Regency, Riau Province, Indonesia. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
A woman wears a mask to protect herself from air pollution caused by the forest fires in Sumatra. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Forest fires in Riau Province, Indonesia. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Thick smog blankets Singapore’s skyline on 06/18/2013. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), Singapore’s main index for air pollution, has hit record levels. These measurements are classified as “hazardous” and can aggravate respiratory ailments. © Ferina Natasya / Greenpeace
At a traffic junction a trishaw driver waits for business as local people wearing pollution protection masks walk by. © Ferina Natasya / Greenpeace