Deforested areas and degraded peatlands are again burning on the island of Sumatra, triggering haze alerts in nearby Malaysia, despite last week’s commitment by regional authorities to address the ongoing fire problem in Indonesia, reports the Agence France-Presse.
On Monday, Malaysia’s Department of Environment reported three areas were suffering from “unhealthy” air quality. “Unhealthy” corresponds to an Air Pollutant Index reading of 100-200.
Figures assembled by the World Resources Institute using NASA data show that dozens of fires are currently burning in Riau province. Nearly half the fires are located within timber and oil palm plantations belonging to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) / Sinar Mas, APRIL, the Rokan Group, and First Resources. Twenty hotspots were registered in logging concessions belonging to PT Hamida Hamidi, according to WRI’s analysis.
Fires have become an annual event in Sumatra due to large-scale deforestation and degradation of peat swamps, which makes land more vulnerable to fire. An above-average number of fires this year generated international headlines when unusual wind patters sent the resulting haze over Singapore, resulting in the worst air pollution levels ever recorded in the city state.
Sumatra has had one of the highest deforestation rates in the world over the past 30 years. Conversion of natural forests for industrial plantations has been the island’s largest driver of deforestation during that period.