KUALA LUMPUR/JAKARTA – Fires in Indonesia that spread a smoky haze over South-east Asia this year burned at least 1.6 million hectares of mostly degraded land and carbon-rich peatlands, data from a respected research group showed on Monday (Dec 2).
South-east Asia has suffered for years from smoke caused by fires in Indonesia, raising health and environmental concerns, but this year’s were the worst since 2015 when 2.6 million hectares were burned.
Slash-and-burn clearing by some palm oil growers is often blamed for the fires, which can then spread rapidly, especially during dry weather.
The Indonesian fires have been blamed for increasing greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation that can endanger wildlife such as orangutans.
The Jakarta-based Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) said its analysis of satellite imagery from the first ten months of the year showed much of the fires was in lands cleared years ago.