Indonesia spot fires sending haze into Malaysia

Indonesia spot fires sending haze into Malaysia

29 September 2009

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Indonesia —

The number of haze-causing spot fires on Indonesia’s half of Borneo island have more than doubled since the start of the week, sending pollution into neighbouring Malaysia, officials said Tuesday.

“Today’s monitoring via satellite shows the increase in the number of hot spots is significant,” forestry ministry official Herman Prayitno told AFP.

On Tuesday 353 hot spots caused by land clearing were recorded in West and Central Kalimantan, on Borneo island, compared with 159 on Monday, Prayinto said.

“There have been 31,958 hot spots this year so far, compared with 31,000 over the whole of last year,” he said.

Fires used in slash-and-burn agriculture are the source of choking smoke that that shrouds the region annually during the dry season.

The website of Malaysia’s environment department said Tuesday that air pollution from fires had reached “unhealthy levels” in three areas in Sarawak state, which is also on Borneo.

Annual haze during the dry season, which ends around September, affects tourism and contributes to health problems across the region.

The haze often reaches mainland Malaysia and Singapore, frequently sending air pollution to unhealthy levels.

Indonesia’s government has outlawed land-clearing by fire but weak law enforcement means the ban is largely ignored.

Greenhouse gas emissions from forest fires and land-clearing in Indonesia have helped the country become the world’s third-largest contributor to climate change, according to some studies.

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