Indonesia — Indonesia is confident annual brush fires that release tons ofgreenhouse gases and send thick haze over neighboring nations will bedramatically reduced this year, the forestry minister said Thursday.
Regular patrols and helicopter surveillance over the worst affected areas ofSumatra island and the Indonesian-side of Borneo have meant much fewer farmersand plantation owners are now setting land clearing fires, said MS Kaban.
The fires typically being in earnest when the dry season begins, scheduled fornext month.
“With the involvement of local officials … and the police and military Iam certain that in 2007 there will be a drastic reduction” in fires, saidKaban after meeting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta.
The annual smog has caused health problems and losses amounting to billions ofdollars from lost tourism revenue and flight delays in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand since 1997, when they first began.
Indonesia has the third-most forest cover of any tropical country, but between2000 and 2005 lost around 1.8 million hectares (4.5 million acres) of forest due to logging, agriculture and forest fires, according to figuresfrom the environmental group Greenpeace.
The country is the third-highest emitter of carbon dioxide worldwide mostly dueto the fires, scientists say.