INDONESIA is approaching dry season and its citizens are already feeling the effects. South Sumatra, Riau, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan this week announced disaster alerts as they are currently the areas worst affected by forest and land fires.
Data shows that it is these regions that take the brunt of the forest fires each year, accounting for nearly 44 percent of all fires in Indonesia since 2001.
For decades, forest and land fires have been an unwelcome annual event in Indonesia. In 2015, the nation saw the worst fires in 20 years due to the El Nino effect. This particular bushfire season wiped out 6.4 million acres (2.59 million ha) of land between June and October.
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The fires also create a huge amount of greenhouse gas as they burn off peatlands. This toxic gas is breathed in by millions of people across Southeast Asia.
Often these fires are started deliberately to clear old crops or prepare the damp land for agricultural purposes. In some cases, the fires are used to drive away anybody who is conflicting land ownership. However, these fires are poorly controlled and can very easily get out of hand.
Live data compiled by Global Forest Watch reveals there are currently 3,362 forest or land fires burning across Indonesia. The data also reveals that many of these fires are raging in areas of agricultural concessions and peatlands.
Indonesia’s disaster management agency said the governors of the provinces declared the alerts based on the number of hotspots and on the agency’s recommendation.
“With the disaster alert status, the provinces will have easier access in terms of personnel, logistics, funding, and support from the central government to tackle forest fires,” National Disaster Management Authority spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement on Wednesday.
Recent efforts by Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo urged authorities to continue efforts in preventing future fires in order for there to be haze-free Asian Games, which is being hosted by Indonesia.
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Jokowi said he had also promised the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia that 2018 would be a haze-free year.
According to Global Forest Watch, analysing recent data can better indicate areas prone to fire and also how to predict them.
Preventing future fires means better organised agriculture farming, prioritising no-burn and zero-deforestation commitments in provinces with chronic fires and closely monitoring provinces with intense recent burning.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister website Travel Wire Asia