Indonesian fire haze worsens

Fires burning in Indonesia since July have destroyed over 800,000ha of rainforest, largely as a result of illegal slash-and-burn operations designed to clear land for agriculture – predominantly palm oil plantations, the Independent newspaper reports.

The Independent wrote on 23 September that the burning had covered the islands in thick toxic smoke, turning the sky red, with the blazes exacerbated by the dry season since June.

Air pollution had reached hazardous levels in neighbouring Singapore and in Malaysia, schools were forced to close due to the smoke.

Police had arrested 185 people since the fires started, the Independent wrote. Environmental laws in Indonesia forbid the setting of fires to clear land.

The country’s Forestry Ministry claimed on 11 September that the smoke in Malaysia came from the country’s own forest fires, shown by satellite images.

There were 1,423 potential fires registered on the Malaysian peninsula on 7 September, an increase from 1,038 on the previous day and also a spike in numbers in the state of Sarawak, the Straits Times reported.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, followed by Malaysia.