There are widespread forest fires in Indonesia almost every year during the dry season, but this year’s are proving particularly devastating, destroying vast tracts of jungle and blanketing neighbouring countries in toxic smog
How serious are this year’s fires?
Nasa satellites have detected more than 117,000 forest fires in Indonesia this year, according to the global fire emissions database. Most are believed to have been started deliberately to clear land for farming. They have been raging for several months and have destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of forest.
Worst-affected areas – Southern Sumatra
Most of the fires are on the islands of Sumatra and the Indondesian part of Borneo, known locally as Kalimantan. Smoke, smog and haze have also affected neighbouring countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, grounding flights and forcing schools to close. Visibility has been reduced in some areas to less than 50 metres (160 feet).
Worst-affected areas – Palangkaraya, Borneo
The smog and haze have been particularly bad in Borneo, measuring 1,986 on the pollution index compiled by Indonesia’s meteorology agency. Values over 350 are considered hazardous. Conservationists also say the fires threaten nearly a third of the world’s orangutan population.
Burgeoning carbon emissions
Peat fires, like those currently raging in Indonesia, produce large quantities of carbon emissions, emitting up to 10 times more methane than fires on other land. The 1997 Indonesian fires are estimated to have produced between 13 and 40% of the world’s annual carbon emissions, and Nasa has said this year’s could be more serious if they are not brought under control soon. The agency estimates that as of 21 September, they had produced about 600m tonnes of CO2, and predicts that by the time they are doused they will have produced more CO2 emissions than Germany does in a year.