Ten million riel reward for forest arsonists

The Phnom Penh Post | Khouth Sophak Chakrya |  24 January 2020

 

The Siem Reap provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said it will offer a 10 million riel ($2,500) reward to those who provide information regarding the suspects responsible for setting ablaze more than 20ha of kranhuong timber forest land in Banteay Srei district.

Department director Tea Kimsoth told The Post on Thursday that more than 20ha of kranhuong timber forest were secretly set on fire on Tuesday evening to lay illegal ownership of the land.

“Our specialist, as well as local authorities and residents in the communities, had been working to protect this forest since 2012. But offenders had burned the land in a blink of an eye.

“I will reward 10 million riel to anyone who can point us to the suspects,” he said.

Banteay Srei district deputy police chief Ros Sisovanna told The Post on Thursday that last year, more than 200ha of the kranhuong forests were completely cleared through burning. However, the culprits responsible had not yet been identified.

“In the case of this forest fire, we suspect that villagers who have houses and agricultural land near the area burned it secretly so that they could encroach on it.

“They must have wanted to expand their agricultural land, but we still have no evidence to present against them,” he said.

Seng Lorn, the chief of the Forestry Administration in the commune who led the operation to extinguish the fire on Tuesday, told The Post that authorities could not immediately gain access to the land due to the lack of roads in the area.

“We spent more than three hours to put out the flames. Because of the hot weather and the shortage in water supply, we don’t expect the burned kranhuong trees to recover until the rainy season,” he said.

Provincial Forestry Administration chief Mong Bunlim said the kranhuong timber forest area in the district covered 2,800ha, adding that the unprecedented fire was caused by people.

“Article 97 of the Forestry Law says that any person guilty of starting forest fires on purpose and without authorisation will face five to 10 years imprisonment,” he said.

Bunlim said the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would gather residents and relevant departments at the beginning of the rainy season to replant kranhuong trees, which, in turn, would restore the forest.

Link: https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/ten-million-riel-reward-forest-arsonists

Australian Wildfires Reinforce The Need To Protect Forests. Here’s How

By Justin Adams, Executive Director, Tropical Forest Alliance
Jan 23, 2020

 

Forests don’t make headlines; forest fires do. Unfortunately, in the past year, forests have been in the news for the wrong reasons.

Wildfires are common during dry seasons in many forests around the world and contribute to the health of the forest by making way for new life. But the frequency and ferocity of fires is increasing. Major fires have burned across all continents except Antarctica in the past year. These fires are a harbinger of a new normal in a changing climate as scientists have longed warned.

Three damaging wildfires stood out: In Australia today, the scale of the fires is unimaginable. They are affecting an area bigger than small European countries and having enormous impacts on people and wildlife. They still aren’t extinguished, and future fire seasons could be even worse.

2019 also saw an uptick in fires in the Amazon Basin. There was a concern that the fires were following an increase in deforestation, which was later confirmed by official Brazilian data, and a deeper concern that parts of the forest may be reaching a tipping point.

In the Arctic, we saw troubling images of fires in Siberia and Alaska. Fires in the great boreal forests that circle the entire northern hemisphere are natural, but the scale of the fires in 2019 was unprecedented, with record high temperatures north of the Arctic Circle.

While different in scale, each of these fires has had significant effects: more and more people are being killed as fires become the new norm in many countries. Air quality is impacted as fires blanket whole regions with haze cities – Australia has recorded the worst pollution levels in the world – and wildlife is increasingly impacted. This all contributes to more carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

But this is not a story of despondency. Nature may be on the front lines of a changing climate. But it can also be one of our strongest allies to reduce emissions globally as well as enhance resilience for communities and landscapes. Nature-based solutions can deliver up to a third of the emission reductions needed to keep temperatures below 2oC. To harness this potential there are three strategies that the world must urgently prioritise:

1.      Stop deforestation

Deforestation remains at near-record highs despite significant investment from the private sector to reduce deforestation in supply chains. The challenge is significantly more complex than any single actor can solve alone. Heading into 2020, it’s clear that companies need to redouble their efforts but also work more closely with governments and the finance sector to eliminate commodity driven deforestation.

We also need to recognise that an increasing amount of deforestation is driven by illegality and criminality in many countries, as well as by poverty. We must increase the political will to eradicate criminality, and we need to support greater investment in development and creation of economic alternative for smallholder farmers in situations where converting forest may be the difference between hunger and health.

None of this is easy that is why there is an urgent need for concerted collective action – looking at and working to improve all parts of the whole. That is how we stop deforestation.

2.      Work together to manage fires

Learning to better manage fires will be critical for enhancing resilience and reducing the impacts of more intense and frequent fires. But there are few mechanisms to share knowledge and practices globally. Global Forest Watch and other platforms now offer more interactive tools for monitoring fires, but we are not learning nor celebrating the success of fighting fires.

For example, Indonesia has experienced several catastrophic forest fires, often made worse by peat land with a huge carbon store, which once ignited is difficult to extinguish. The fires of 2015 were estimated to have killed 100,000 people. The dry season of 2019 also threatened to be difficult, but improved fire management from both the government, which established a Peat Restoration Agency in 2016, and leading private companies like APRIL and APP, who run Fire Free Village programs around their estates have been successful at reducing instances and severity of fires.

In addition, indigenous communities around the world have worked with fire for centuries in many countries around the world to manage their landscapes. By setting fires early in the season, they can avoid catastrophic fires in the height of the dry season. I had the honour to spend a week with Aboriginal Rangers in the Kimberly and saw the pride and cultural significance of this work. There is potential to scale these efforts.

3.      Accelerate restoration

Last, but by no means least, we need to unleash a global restoration movement. There is growing understanding that reforestation and better land management is one of the best solutions we have to actively drawdown carbon from the atmosphere and lock the carbon up in our forests, grasslands and wetlands. Scientists estimate there were 6 trillion trees after the last ice age, but we are now down to a little over 3 trillion.

The World Economic Forum launched a new platform 1t.org, a multistakeholder effort to support efforts to grow, restore and conserve 1 trillion trees around the world. By growing, restoring and conserving a trillion trees or more over the course of the next decade, we have the chance to reduce climate risk, enhance water security, reverse biodiversity declines and create millions of rural jobs.

None of these strategies are easy. But by eliminating deforestation, improving fire management investing in restoration, we have the chance to enhance our resilience in the face of changing climate, reducing climate risk, reversing biodiversity declines and enhancing water security. Most importantly we also have the opportunity to create millions of jobs for rural communities.

As we start new decade, it is imperative that we commit together to co-create a forest-positive future.

This article is related to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 21-24 January 2020.

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/worldeconomicforum/2020/01/23/australian-wildfires-reinforce-the-need-to-protect-forests-heres-how/#2099db675452

Australian Coal Company Says Bush-Fire Smoke Is Slowing Production

By | Jan. 21, 2020

 

The poor air quality is making equipment harder to operate, and some workers have had to take leave to fight fires. The irony was not lost on many in Australia.

SYDNEY, Australia — Australia’s biggest mining company, BHP, announced on Tuesday that coal output was down at one of its large mines. The reason? Smoke from the country’s ferocious wildfires — a crisis fed by climate change, which is caused in no small part by the burning of coal.

The reduced air quality in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, has helped slow the company’s production of electricity-generating coal by 11 percent there, BHP said in a review of its midyear financial results.

“We are monitoring the situation, and if air quality continues to deteriorate, then operations could be constrained further in the second half of the year,” said the company, which ends its fiscal year on June 30.

The irony was not lost on many in Australia.

The country, which just endured its hottest and driest year on record, has been dealing for months with bush fires that have killed at least 29 people, ravaged tens of millions of acres, and left residents in its largest cities wheezing from the most polluted air in the world.

“You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!” Terry Serio, an actor and musician, said on Twitter.

“I did roll my eyes,” Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics, a policy institute, said in an interview.

The smoke, Dr. Hare said, was most likely a minor inconvenience in the supply chain for BHP, the globe’s biggest mining company. But, he added, it served as a “wake-up call” to BHP that the world needs to wean itself off coal to avert the most damaging effects of climate change.

“You can see the mood is changing in Australia,” Dr. Hare said. “Sooner or later, the companies are going to run out of social license.”

A BHP spokesman said that smoke from the bush fires had reduced visibility and made equipment harder to operate at the Mount Arthur coal site 150 miles north of Sydney.

In addition, some employees have taken leave from work to protect their properties from fires or to serve as volunteer firefighters.

While the fires have affected production, the spokesman said, the slowdown was also the result of a shift to mining higher-quality products. But even as the company investigates options to reduce its climate impact, he said, coal will remain a major part of its energy production mix.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, and the industry wields wide influence on the country’s political leaders. The country has annual coal exports worth 67 billion Australian dollars, or about $45 billion, including to major nations like China, Japan and India.

Although Australia emits only about 1.2 percent of global greenhouse gases, its economic reliance on fossil fuel extraction makes it the sixth-biggest producer of fuels that release carbon. Those emissions are expected to double by 2030, according to a 2019 report from the United Nations Environment Program.

Under Australia’s current conservative leadership, emissions have been rising, and renewable energy targets have stagnated, even as the government says it will meet its carbon reduction targets under the Paris climate agreement. Climate scientists say the targets were among the weakest of those proposed by developed nations.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/21/business/coal-company-bhp-smoke.html

Khao Yai bushfires extinguished

Bangkok Post | 14 Jan 2020

NAKHON RATCHASIMA: Forest fires which have been burning in parts of Khao Yai National Park since early this month are reported to have been finally put out.

The bushfires were first reported on Jan 5 by national park officials in Khao Siad-a, Khao Ang Hin and Khao Nok Yung forest reserves near Ban Nong Yang in tambon Phayayen of Pak Chong district. They were believed to have started about five days previously.

Crews from several stations in the national park were mobilised to combat the blazes.

The last flames were extinguished about noon on Monday, according to a local media report.

An investigation is underway into the cause of the fires.

Link: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1835439/khao-yai-bushfires-extinguished

Australia fires: NSW towns cut off by bushfire as Queensland residents told to leave

Fire north of Batemans Bay on the New South Wales south coast doubles in size, burning through more than 11,560 hectares
‘Absolutely suffocating’: how are you affected by smoke haze from Australia’s bushfires?

 

Residents face a nervous wait on Monday night as gusty, strong winds whip-up a blaze in the New South Wales Shoalhaven area which remains at emergency warning level.

The fire north of Batemans Bay has burnt through more than 16,000 hectares and was spreading quickly in a north-easterly direction towards coastal communities.

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South America forest fires could disrupt rainfall in region’s farm belt: experts

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia (Reuters) – Forest fires that swept across Bolivia and Brazil this year could disrupt rainfall distribution across South America’s grains-and-beef producing regions in unpredictable ways for years to come, a scientist and meteorologist said

Recent rains in both countries have helped put out the wildfires, which were likely started by farmers and ranchers using slash-and-burn agricultural methods.

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Land clearance for plantations causal to Indonesia’s forest fires

“The fire will not break out on its own, but human beings do it”

 

Jakarta (ANTARA) – Rasio Ridho Sani, director general of law enforcement of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry, pointed to the slash-and-burn deforestation technique to make way for plantations as among the three factors causing forest fires.

“Fire will not break out on its own, but human beings do it,” he stated during a polemic talk here on Saturday.

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Bolivia Is Fighting Major Forest Fires Nearly As Large As In Brazil

Six volunteer firefighters use machetes to cut a path through the vines and underbrush of the Chiquitano forest in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands. They’re approaching the leading edge of a fire that’s been burning for hours.

They attempt to smother it with shovelfuls of dirt and water they carry on their backs in tanks normally used to fumigate crops. But the smoke is getting thicker, the heat stronger and swirling winds push the flames forward. Realizing they are overmatched, José Zapata, the only trained firefighter among the group, orders his men to pull out.

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Johor fire chief says open burning main cause for forest fires in state

JOHOR BARU, Sept 11 — Uncontrolled open burning was identified as the main cause for the destruction of more than 48ha of forest areas in Johor recently, said state Fire and Rescue Department director Datuk Yahaya Madis.

In Johor, he said there were three hotspots, with the biggest being Muar with 20ha destroyed, followed by Pontian (12ha) and Gelang Patah (16ha) recently.

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The Amazon, Siberia, Indonesia: A World of Fire

By 
The growing intensity of wildfires and their spread to new corners of the globe raises fears that climate change is exacerbating the dangers.

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In South America, the Amazon basin is ablaze. Halfway around the world in central Africa, vast stretches of savanna are going up in flame. Arctic regions in Siberia are burning at a historic pace.

While the Brazilian fires have grown into a full-blown international crisis, they represent only one of many significant areas where wildfires are currently burning around the world. Their increase in severity and spread to places where fires were rarely previously seen is raising fears that climate change is exacerbating the danger.

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