Comments of the GFMC to the Smoke-Haze Problems in Southeast Asia
GFMC Freiburg, Germany, 23 August 2005. As the fires continue to burn in Sumatra a news reports addresses the role of the large plantation enterprises in the overall fire scene in the country. According to a report by Corporate Social Responsibility Press Releases (CRSwire) the Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), one of the worlds leading producers of fiber, pulp and paper, has taken the lead among companies in combating fires by adding air-born firefighting capability to its existing ground and water-based competence. A McDonnell-Douglas 500Er helicopter with a 476-liter water bucket have been contracted by APRIL to enable the company to respond rapidly to fires. APRIL also has an airboat which significantly improves movement in the lowlands and is effective in the rapid response to fires. This is in addition to the traditional fire truck and ground fire fighting teams. Reiterating its commitment to fire and haze prevention in its fiber plantations, APRILs fire-fighting team continues to actively conduct ground and air patrol to monitor and quickly respond to any potential fire situation in its areas of operations. We are concerned with the environmental and health impact of the haze problem across the region and our company is committed to help in its prevention. The past months have been the traditional dry season when the communities do land-clearing using fire and often, these fires spread across boundaries and to our plantations so we have to actively monitor and respond to ensure immediate control, said Bradford Sanders, APRIL Fire, Health and Safety Manager for fiber operations. When possible we also help government efforts to extinguish fires outside our areas of operation. APRILs has long practiced a No Burn policy and as such does not carry out burning for land-clearing. The no-burn approach is incorporated into the companys Social, Environmental, Health and Safety Policy, as well as being promoted through its membership in the Haze Prevention Group* where it is a founding member.
The CRSwire report, however, does not address the most burning issue the overall ecological and environmental consequences of the conversion of peatlands to fiber plantations and other plantation crops. This issue will remain to be most critical in evaluating the prevailing land-use practices in Indonesia that lead to the current smoke-haze situation in the region.
According to a Reuters report published today Malaysia continues to complain that Indonesia has yet to ratify a regional agreement aimed at controlling forest fires in Southeast Asia, while Indonesians blame Malaysian-owned palm-oil plantations both in Indonesia and in Malaysia for contributing to the haze. Malaysia is the biggest producer of palm oil and, during drier weather at this time of year, plantation owners sometimes flout bans on open burning to clear land to plant new trees. Malaysia sent 128 firemen to help douse the flames, and Singapore 56, according to officials. Australia reportedly planned to send a team of 12 bushfire experts.
Malaysia complains Indonesia has yet to ratify a regional agreement aimed at controlling forest fires in Southeast Asia, while Indonesians blame Malaysian-owned palm-oil plantations both in Indonesia and in Malaysia for contributing to the haze.
Malaysia is the biggest producer of palm oil and, during drier weather at this time of year, plantation owners sometimes flout bans on open burning to clear land to plant new trees.
Meanwhile the air pollution caused by the burnings in Sumatra continued to stay low due to the continuing rains over the Indonesian island. The Department of Environment (DOE) of Malaysia recorded 13 areas with API of between 51 to 100, which is a “moderate” level, while the rest of the country recorded “good” API readings of below 50. According to a report of the Straits Time of 23 August 2005 at 11am, Johor Baru recorded the highest reading at 57 while Limbang, Sarawak, recorded the lowest reading at 16. Visibility in most areas was between 8km and 10km with the exception of Muadzam Shah, Pahang, where visibility was down to 2.8km.
The following information is taken from the following websites of the Indonesian Ministry for Forestry and reflects the situation back in the 1990s when land-use fires burned in the same regions of Sumatra, especially in Riau Province in a similar way as they continue in 2005:
Overview: Last 10 days NOAA 16 hr satellite images
12 August 2005
13 August 2005
14 August 2005
15 August 2005
16 August 2005
17 August 2005
18 August 2005
19 August 2005
20 August 2005
21 August 2005
(source: National Environment Agency)
I. Monitoring of Smoke-Haze and Active Fires (land-use fires and wildfires)
Regional Smoke-Haze Monitoring
The Meteorological Division of the Singapore National Environment Agency provides a daily updated map showing active fires (land-use fires, wildfires), smoke haze and surface wind directions within the South East Asian region.
Latest map of surface winds and smoke haze/hot spots observed over cloud-free areas.
Latest regional active fire (hotspot) maps:
Forecast of winds and surface pressure for the South East Asian Region:
Other Regional NOAA and GOES Satellite Images:
Update of Regional Weather and Smoke Haze for the last Month:
Fire Activity Monitoring in Borneo (Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak)
Latest fire overview map for Borneo: 15 December 2004
(Source: IFFM Fire Maps)
Fire Activity Monitoring in South Sumatra
The South Sumatra Forest Fire Management Project provides regular fire activity maps based on the products of the MODIS Rapid Response System: http://www.ssffmp.or.id/ssffmp/fwi-2.asp?id=2
II. Fire Weather and Fire Danger Monitoring and Early Warning
Regional Fire Weather
The Regional South East Asia Fire Danger Rating System (SEA FDRS) is a joint effort between the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) and the Malaysian Meteorological Service (MMS), supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Daily updated SEA Fire Danger Rating can be downloaded on the following website of MMS, and background information on the project can be found at the SEA FDRS Project website.
Latest example of a SEA FDRS product:
The Fire Weather Index (FWI) values shown on the map are numerical ratings of fire intensity.
Information from the Initial Spread Index (ISI) and Build Up Index (BUI) is combined to provide a numerical rating of fire intensity.
This index is used to indicate the difficulty of fire control based on the head fire intensity and fire fighting capability.
Information on the Indonesian Fire Danger Rating System (Indonesian FDRS) is provided by the Indonesian Bureau of Meteorology and Geophysics (BMG) in Jakarta. The site provides information for fire managers working to prevent and control vegetation fires and smoke in Indonesia. This link points to the English version; a Bahasa Indonesian version can be found there as well: http://www.bmg.go.id:8080/fdrs/index_e.html.
The GFMC displays selected and daily updated global and Asia-Pacific Experimental Climate Prediction Center (ECPC) Fire Weather Forecasts. These examples allow a quicklook and provide daily and weekly total forecasts and forecasted monthly totals. For background information refer to the ECPC products description page.
tomorrow – week – monthly
Fire Weather Index (FWI) forecast for this week (left) and the predicted FWI total for next month (right)
for the Western Pacific (1-3) and the Pacific Ocean (4-6) regions.
The weekly total forecast and the monthly forecasted total refer to 00:00 hrs UTC, which is local noon at dateline (180° longitude).
Forecast time is 12:00 hrs noon UTC (Greenwich) corresponding to local evening time in mainland and insular SE Asia.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)