Indonesia — Indonesia has put out most of the forest fires in its part of Borneo island after inducing rain with cloud seeding, minimizing the spread of a smoke haze that’s threatening air quality in the country and its neighbors.
The number of hotspots in the provinces of Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan on Borneo has dropped to fewer than 100 from as many as 600 the previous week, Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban told reporters today. Hotspots are areas about 1-kilometer (0.6-mile) wide with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
The haze occurs almost every year during the dry season as farmers on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo clear land by setting fires to trees and bushes. Smoke choked much of Southeast Asia in 1997 and 1998, causing economic losses of almost $9 billion as travelers shunned the region and health-care costs increased. The haze also reduced visibility in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
The government has put aside a budget of 1 billion rupiah to 2 billion rupiah ($219,000) for the cloud-seeding program that began in late August, which involves spraying silver iodide particles into storm clouds.