German forest fire risk spikes amid high temperatures, drought

German forest fire risk spikes amid high temperatures, drought

Date 21.04.2019 | Author Jeanette Cwienk

Sun and warmth might seem like the perfect weather for Easter. But experts warn that Germany is far too dry, almost everywhere in the country.

Sun and warmth might seem like the perfect weather for Easter. But experts warn that Germany is far too dry, almost everywhere in the country.

Normally, the lucrative cash crop known as rapeseed, or canola, blooms throughout the German state of Thuringia at the end of May. But this year, you would look in vain for the yellow blossoms that are usually turned into one of the western world’s main sources of cooking oil.

According to Andre Rathgeber of the Farmers’ Association of Thuringia, the prognosis for rapeseed is so bad, most farmers have decided to clear the land for other crops.

This is because the land is far too dry, especially in the key area about 60 cm (23 inches) below the surface, said German Weather Service (DWD) meteorologist Corina Schube.

Forest fire alert level raised across Germany

German winters are supposed to be rainy — 210 liters per square meter (51.5 gallons per square foot) — but the average in recent years has dropped to only 180. And that amount is far from evenly distributed. This winter, the Black Forest was doused in 300 liters per square meter, while much of Thuringia saw only 25.

This amount of water is usual for a subtropical region, but certainly not for Germany. The drought is particularly dangerous for Germany’s forests, where even in the relatively cooler northeast, increasing temperatures have brought the forest fire danger level to either “high” or “very high.”

The risk is especially dire for the country’s many pine forests, where extremely thirsty trees drain the soil much more quickly than other types of timber. Unusually massive storms in recent years have added to the problem, as now dead wood and leave litter the forest floor in much greater amounts — making perfect kindling.

These storms also greatly weaken trees, making it harder for them to withstand the periods of drought. The drought, in turn, means trees such as pines produce less resin, making it harder for them to defend against invasive insects.

500 million trees died in summer 2018

Another way unusual weather problems are exacerbating Germany’s risk of forest fires and poor crop yields is a drought in some areas and far too heavy rainfall in others. The latter can wash away freshly planted seeds, ruining a harvest.

German agriculturalists have tried to combat climate change by planting more deciduous and fewer coniferous trees. However, the shorter roots of new trees mean they cannot reap the benefits of moisture buried deep underground, and they tend to wither much more quickly.

Sebastian Schreiber of Germany’s Agriculture Council said that 500 million young trees died in the summer heat wave of 2018.

Forestry experts are now promoting the creation of specialized, diverse forests, with plants specially chosen to protect each other from drought, storms, and parasites.

Link: https://www.dw.com/en/german-forest-fire-risk-spikes-amid-high-temperatures-drought/a-48422025

Rain brings relief from forest fires in Coimbatore

Rain brings relief from forest fires in Coimbatore

By: Wilson Thomas

21 April 2019

Dampens the rising danger of wildfires after weeks of dry conditions

Illegal Logging and Forest Fires Threaten Resources of Protected Areas in Costa Rica

Illegal Logging and Forest Fires Threaten Resources of Protected Areas in Costa Rica

In the Country, 99% of Forest Fires Present in Dry Period Are for Action of the Human Being

Officers of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) have attended last week several fires in the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge Border Corridor. Some hectares of land have been burned but the fire has been controlled.

Also, this week, they attended illegal logging in the Border Corridor National Wildlife Refuge and a case of illegal logging of wood in protected areas of streams and springs; this time in the district of Horquetas de Sarapiquí.

Illegal logging was also attended to at Caño San José in Puerto Viejo, Sarapiquí, among others. The call of the MINAE authorities is to stop logging in order to avoid drought and more damage to the environment.

Fires

In the country, 99% of forest fires present in the dry season are by human action, so as every year, people are asked to take precautions not to build campfires or start fires within protected areas.

Some of the tips to avoid fires is to keep the lots and lots around the houses clean and free of weeds:

• Avoid burning garbage, leaves, trunks, Christmas trees, plastics, tires, and any other material; in the vicinity of vacant lots or patios in your home.

• Do not dispose of combustible objects, glass, cans, plastic or trash in vacant lots, on the edge of streets, pastures or other areas prone to catching fire.

• Maintain rounds (free strips of weeds, vegetation, and combustible materials) at the boundaries of property prone or exposed to risk by uncontrolled burning.

• Do not throw cigarette butts or other lit objects in vacant lots or on the side of the road.

• If you go camping: do not leave trash and combustible materials in the field, avoid fires or eliminate all combustible surfaces from the place where you build the campfire, do not leave fires burning, when you go to bed or leave the camp, make sure that the fire is extinguished by full.

Link: https://thecostaricanews.com/illegal-logging-and-forest-fires-threaten-resources-of-protected-areas-in-costa-rica/

‘Transboundary Haze’: The Seasonal Pollution Plaguing Southeast Asia

‘Transboundary Haze’: The Seasonal Pollution Plaguing Southeast Asia

2018/11/08, Environment | By Helena Varkkey

Transboundary haze is a form of seasonal air pollution affecting up to six Southeast Asian countries on an almost annual basis.

The first reports of this phenomenon emerged in the 1980s, and the most recent serious episode took place in 2016. The most affected countries are Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. The particulate and aerosol matter that makes up the haze originates from forest and peat fires occurring during the dry season, mostly in Indonesia. When this permeates the troposphere and travels across national borders, it is known as transboundary haze.

RTX2N6PN
People take photos near the Singapore Flyer observatory wheel shrouded by haze, Aug 26, 2016.

The countries and people within reach of this smoky shroud suffer serious health, economic, and environmental consequences during each episode. The fine particles in the haze permeate deep into the lungs, which can cause serious respiratory problems, especially among young children and the elderly, sometimes resulting in death. Ophthalmological, dermatological, and psychological issues are also commonplace.

Sick days taken and school closures (during which parents often stay home to care for their children) cause significant losses in workforce productivity. These countries’ tourism industries suffer as well, as visitors have no interest in hazy skylines. Agricultural productivity and the general state of the environment also decline as the haze blocks out the sun and slows down photosynthesis.

Whither the weather solution?

With the countries affected all situated within the Southeast Asian region, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was quickly looked upon to be the driver of a workable regional solution to the haze. ASEAN began to formally identify transboundary haze as part of its remit in 1985. However, despite various ASEAN agreements, initiatives, and task forces since then, the haze persists. The haze’s effect on member countries is dire, and its causes are seemingly well understood, so ASEAN’s continued inability to effectively mitigate it is puzzling.

Scholars have laid the blame for ASEAN’s “failure” to solve the haze on weak regional governance; specifically, the limitations of its model of regional engagement through consensus, non-interference, non-confrontation, sensitivity, and politeness, as well as non-legalistic procedures – the so-called “ASEAN Way.” Describing this model as a “doctrine” to be adhered to at all costs, scholars such as Vinod Aggarwal and Jonathan Chow argue that member states’ desire to eliminate the haze has been unable to compete against the stronger desire to comply with the ASEAN Way.

However, other ASEAN observers, such as Tobias Nischalke and Shaun Narine, have argued that member states do not blindly follow the ASEAN Way. Nischalke’s research uncovered many examples where the ASEAN Way was only moderately adhered to at best. This contention was the entry point of my research: has ASEAN been failing on the haze because states are duty-bound to adhere to norms that do not encourage effective regional environmental governance? Or have the states been choosingto adhere to these norms because it is in their interests to do so? If so, what are these interests, who has been shaping them, and why are they not in line with a haze-free ASEAN?

It’s the peat, stupid!

To answer these questions, I spent six months in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia conducting semi-structured interviews with over 100 individuals with experience in haze governance, including government and ASEAN officials, journalists, plantation company representatives, non-governmental organization workers, and academics.

RTS1C9G
Fires on palm oil plantations, such as this one in Jebus village on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, are responsible for a great deal of transboundary haze.

During these conversations, several points became clear.

Firstly, the type of fire matters. While regular forest fires are most common, they usually burn tree canopies. This produces little smoke and often results only in short-term, localized haze. Peat fires, on the other hand, can spread below the surface, reaching soil. Carbon-rich soil produces especially thick and sooty smoke when burnt, and this smoke can travel great distances. These fires are also harder to put out. Hence, a small amount of fires (on peatlands) are responsible for a large portion of transboundary haze.

Secondly, peat is not naturally fire-prone. In their natural state, peatlands are flooded year-round – fires only occur when peatlands are drained in preparation for planting. This dries out the peat and makes it flammable.

Thirdly, due to the importance of peatlands as carbon sinks, Indonesian law generally does not allow these areas to be developed. Despite this, and due to the decreasing availability of mineral soil, an increasing amount of peatlands have been opened for agriculture, especially for palm oil. A trend emerged, where the increasing severity of the haze matched the region’s palm oil boom in recent decades.

Hazy networks

Further interviews revealed that large plantation companies, both local and from Malaysia or Singapore, have managed to obtain licenses to access peatlands to plant crops like oil palm. Some of these companies deliberately use fire as the cheapest and quickest way to clear the land for planting. Even if these companies do not deliberately burn, the act of draining these lands makes them prone to accidental fires.

I found that strong patronage networks in this sector have enabled this to happen. Patronage is defined as a situation where an individual of higher socioeconomic position (patron) uses his influence and resources to provide protection or benefits for a person of lower status (client), who reciprocates by offering support and assistance to the patron. In this case, government patrons have provided the benefit of licenses to their clients, the business elites who own or are affiliated with these plantation companies. Furthermore, clients have also enjoyed their patrons’ protection from prosecution for haze-producing fires.

RTS37UI
A woman looks towards the Prime Minister’s office, which is shrouded in haze, in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Oct 6, 2015.

These networks are at work even at the ASEAN level. When they represent Indonesia at ASEAN, the patrons are still compelled to protect their clients. An effective ASEAN haze mitigation strategy would mean that their clients would lose access to lucrative income, and risk being prosecuted. Hence, these patrons choose to use the ASEAN Way, especially the principles of non-interference and non-legalistic procedures, to block any meaningful strategies. Malaysian and Singaporean patrons follow suit, as they also act to protect their own complicit companies. I argue that these patronage networks better explain the decisions made at the ASEAN level that have led to the failure of the bloc to solve the haze problem.

Blue skies ahead?

Since my field research, there have been some positive developments. The government of Singapore has shown a shift in its national interests, away from protecting its clients and toward the well being of its people. After several public displays of frustration with ASEAN’s lackadaisical efforts, Singapore ultimately passed its landmark Transboundary Haze Pollution Act in 2014, which empowered its courts to prosecute any party (even non-Singaporean) found to have caused haze in Singapore.

Singapore, however, has not yet been able to use this act in court, largely due to the non-cooperation of Indonesia. While ASEAN member states still meet regularly to strategize on haze matters, the strategic use of the ASEAN Way continues to limit any meaningful progress. However, as Singapore has shown, change is not impossible. I remain hopeful that other member states will eventually follow in Singapore’s footsteps to act in the common interest of the people of the region.

Helena Varkkey is a senior lecturer in the Department of International and Strategic Studies at the University of Malaya. She received her PhD in international relations from the University of Sydney in 2012 and her first book, “The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia: Palm Oil and Patronage,” was published by Routledge based on the above research in 2016.

Read Next: INDONESIA: Palm Oil Linked to Deforestation Remains on Store Shelves

This article was originally published in AsiaGlobal Online, a Hong Kong-based source of Asian perspectives on global issues. The News Lens has been authorized to republish this article.

TNL Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

Source Link: https://international.thenewslens.com/article/107781

Is there a market-based solution to Southeast Asia’s haze problem?

Is there a market-based solution to Southeast Asia’s haze problem?

A cap-and-trade system helped to eradicate acid rain in the 1990s. Could Southeast Asia’s haze problem be beaten in the same way? American Financial Exchange chief Richard Sandor thinks so.

Trees made bare by acid rain in Smokey Mountain National Park, USA
Trees made bare by acid rain in Smokey Mountain National Park, which straddles the states of North Carolina and Tennessee in the United States. Acid rain was successfully dealt with and is no longer part of political memory, said Sandor. Image: The Shared Experience, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Acid rain was a major environmental problem in the 1970s and 1980s. The phenomenon was caused by the reaction of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from power factories with moisture in the atmosphere to generate acid, which fell onto earth as rain, poisoning lakes and destroying forests.

The situation began to improve in 1990 when the United States government and economists introduced a cap-and-trade system for power producers, which put in place a cap on permitted emissions and enabled companies to trade leftover allowances, said Richard Sandor, chairman and chief executive officer of the American Financial Exchange, an electronic exchange for financial institutions.

Sandor, who played a key role in orchestrating the cap-and-trade scheme to tackle acid rain, was speaking at a lecture organized by the National University of Singapore in the Southeast Asian city-state.

“The idea was to put a cap on the number of emissions nationally, and then lower the cap over a period of time,” he said. There was the outcry that electricity prices would skyrocket, America’s competitiveness would be hurt, and power-producing states such as Ohio or Illinois would go bankrupt.

Instead, a decade after the first cap-and-trade programme was implemented, emissions were down to around 4 million tonnes from a high of 18 million in the 1980s.

“Electricity prices went down. The cost to the US economy was $1.2 billion, but there was an annual reduction of $123 billion in medical expenses associated with lung diseases,” said Sandor, who is also known as the “father of carbon trading” for his work on carbon markets around the world. “That does not include 37,000 lives a year saved nor the restoration of rivers.”

But could market-based solutions solve the persistent problem of transboundary air pollution in Southeast Asia, asked moderator Tommy Koh, ambassador-at-large for Singapore’s foreign ministry.

Also known as the haze, it is caused by forests fires in Indonesia as land is cleared for palm oil plantations, said Koh.

Sandor offered two pieces of advice: to create a regional solution and to put a price on pollution.

Drawing from the example of acid rain, he said that the creation of local laws to regulate emissions from coal-fired plants resulted in utility companies building taller smokestacks so that emissions would blow into another state where the regulations didn’t apply.

“We thought of sulfur dioxide as a local problem, but it was as regional as [the haze] in Southeast Asia. It requires a regional agreement because local command and control, where there are externalities involved, just doesn’t work,” Sandor said.

When told that Asean—a political bloc of 10 Southeast Asian countries—already has an agreement to combat the haze, Sandor said pricing could be another solution.

Cap-and-trade markets work because companies find that it pays to pollute. “The question is, how do people get paid not to pollute?” he said. If polluters realize they could make money from cutting emissions—by selling leftover emission quotas, in the example of acid rain—they would do it.

Blockchain for the masses

Sandor was optimistic about the future of blockchain-based market trading, which could also empower small producers to access bigger markets. There has been a lot of hype and speculation around cryptocurrencies, which are digital tokens whose transactions are recorded on the digital open ledger that is blockchain technology, he said.

But the underlying blockchain technology is much more impactful as it can be used to facilitate trade in clean energy, as seen in South Africa’s Sun Exchange platform WePower from Lithuania, Sandor explained.

Recalling his work in Kerala state in Southern India in 2007, Sandor said he and the Chicago Climate Exchange partnered a non-governmental organization to encourage farmers to collect manure and process it using biodigesters. The methane produced was used for household cooking, and the carbon credits produced sold on the Exchange to provide additional income.

But a key obstacle was the need to travel to these remote villages to verify the carbon offsets were indeed being made, noted Sandor.

“If we had the blockchain and remote sensing … we could’ve reached 20 million rural poor [versus 150,000] because all they would’ve needed were cell phones and remote sensors and I could’ve built a blockchain registry,” he said.

Farmers who have mobile phones can record information about their crops and sustainability certification credentials on the blockchain, and take advantage of that transparency to connect with larger, international markets, said Sandor. “This is a way for an Indian farmer with a small plot of land to—because the information is recorded—be a supplier to Walmart that could never be without this technology.”

He added: “The message is: embrace change, don’t be bothered by blockchain, it’s no different to the cellphone or CNN. It’s information.”

Source Link: https://www.eco-business.com/news/is-there-a-market-based-solution-to-southeast-asias-haze-problem/

New global study reveals the ‘staggering’ loss of forests caused by industrial agriculture

New global study reveals the ‘staggering’ loss of forests caused by industrial agriculture

The finding is “a really big deal,” says tropical ecologist Daniel Nepstad, director of the Earth Innovation Institute, an environmental nonprofit in San Francisco, California, because it suggests that corporate commitments alone are not going to adequately protect forests from expanding agriculture.

Researchers already had a detailed global picture of forest loss and regrowth. In 2013, a team led by Matthew Hansen, a remote-sensing expert at the University of Maryland in College Park, published high-resolution maps of forest change between 2000 and 2012 from satellite imagery. But the maps, available online, didn’t reveal where deforestation—the permanent loss of forest—was taking place.

Source Link: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/09/scientists-reveal-how-much-world-s-forests-being-destroyed-industrial-agriculture

Wildfires raze hectares of land in Sukabumi nature reserves

Wildfires raze hectares of land in Sukabumi nature reserves

News Desk | The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, September 4, 2018 | 12:44 pm

Wildfires engulfed hectares of land in the Cikepuh and Cibanteng nature reserves in Sukabumi, West Java, between July and August.

The West Java Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) recorded that at least 27 hotspots, which were located on the savannah, had scorched about 232 ha of the two nature reserves’ total area, kompas.com reported.

Kusmara of the BKSDA said the savannah was prone to fires during the dry season.

The fires, he added, were also found inside the buffer zones close to land owned by local residents.

“We are still investigating the cause of the fire because there is suspicion of illegal activities in the area,” Kusmara said on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com, without giving more information.

Cikepuh and Cibanteng are part of the Ciletuh-Pelabuhan Ratu National Geopark, which gained global recognition as a UNESCO Global Geopark earlier this year.

In September last year, fires razed at least 19 ha of forest in Cikepuh.

Kusmara said the authorities were continuing to work to prevent further fires, including encouraging local residents to take part in wildfire prevention campaigns.

During this year’s dry season peak between July and August, the country saw an increase in the number of land and forest fires in several provinces, with West Kalimantan becoming the region with the most hotspots to date. (kuk/ipa)

Source Link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/09/04/wildfires-raze-hectares-of-land-in-sukabumi-nature-reserves.html

Four killed in Indonesia forest fires, police arrest suspects

Four killed in Indonesia forest fires, police arrest suspects

PONTIANAK, Indonesia (AP) – Police in the Indonesian part of Borneo island have arrested more than a dozen people suspected of starting forest fires that have killed four people in the past month.

West Kalimantan police chief Didi Haryono said yesterday that two of the 27 people wanted by police died in blazes they started to clear land for planting. He said 14 people have been arrested so far.

They could be prosecuted under an environmental protection law that allows a maximum 10-year prison sentence for setting fires to clear land.

The national disaster agency says four people have died in West Kalimantan’s forest fires in the past month, including two suspects.

Millions of hectares burned in Indonesia during annual dry season fires in 2015 that spread a health-damaging haze across the region for weeks.

The disaster, estimated by the World Bank to have caused losses of USD16 billion, was exacerbated by the practice of draining swampy peatland forests for industrial plantations, making them highly combustible. Indonesia’s government imposed a moratorium on peatland development in 2016 but has made little progress with plans to restore such wetlands to their original condition.

Officials said the recent haze in West Kalimantan has diminished due to fire-fighting efforts.

Sahat Irawan Manik, an official with a local fire unit, said on Monday that conditions had especially improved in the provincial capital, Pontianak, and around the airport.

“There are still some fires in five districts but there are water bombing teams by the Disaster Mitigation Agency, which has deployed 10 helicopters to help extinguish the fires,” Manik said.

About 1,000 hectares of fires have been extinguished across the province, he said.

Raffles B. Panjaitan, director of investigation and forest protection at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said the number of “hotspots” in West Kalimantan had dropped to 21 on Monday from 60 on Sunday.

Panjaitan said that so far this year, 71,959 hectares of land have burned in forest fires compared with 165,464 hectares from January to July last year.

Link: https://borneobulletin.com.bn/four-killed-in-indonesia-forest-fires-police-arrest-suspects/

Concerns Rising in ASEAN Over Borneo Fires, Haze

Concerns Rising in ASEAN Over Borneo Fires, Haze

Max Walden

As ambient air pollution chokes Jakarta amid hosting the Asian Games, many in Malaysia are accusing Indonesia of being responsible for heightened levels of haze, which they say is because of fires in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo island.

A smoky haze from fires, exacerbated by hot, dry conditions as well as the result of the deliberate burning of land for agriculture, threatens to spark another diplomatic conflict between Indonesia and its neighbors. A similar rift occurred in 2015 when smoke spread from Kalimantan and Sumatra to blanket Singapore and large parts of Malaysia.

“I continue to invite all parties to care for forests and land. Stop hurting nature by burning,” Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s minister of Environment and Forestry, tweeted Wednesday. “We don’t have plan B, because there is NO planet B.”

Southeast Asia has experienced annual haze during the dry season since at least 2005, in part because of agricultural producers using burning as a cheap and effective way to clear land.

About 60 to 70 percent of fires in 2015 occurred in degraded peatlands, where burning releases an enormous amount of carbon dioxide, producing a particularly noxious form of smog.

Severe respiratory problems

In a paper published in the journal Respirology last month, Malaysian researchers found that hospitalizations for breathing problems increased significantly during periods of haze. Severe respiratory problems accounted for 4 percent of admissions to intensive care units during times of haze, compared to 2 percent generally.

Malaysian social media has been abuzz with accusations that Indonesia is responsible for increased levels of smog in recent weeks.

According to Global Forest Watch, there were more than 17,000 fire alerts across Kalimantan in the past week, the greatest number of which were in West Kalimantan. Its capital, Pontianak, sits more than 900 kilometers (571 miles) east of Kuala Lumpur and is closer in proximity to many Malaysian cities than it is to Jakarta.

Experts say it is unclear, however, whether heightened levels of air pollution in Malaysia are being caused by Indonesian forest fires.

“If there are large fires and the wind is heading that way, there’s a possibility. But to be certain, you’d need analysis of data,” said Dr. Raden Driejana, an air quality expert from the Bandung Institute of Technology. “It’s dry season [in Indonesia], and also in Malaysia, so there could be fires there, too.”

“The fires are getting worse in Kalimantan, but they are still far from those in 1982 and 1997,” Arief Wijaya, climate and forests senior manager at the World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia, told VOA.

The World Health Organization said that exposure to ambient air pollution can cause an array of deadly conditions, such as heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, and respiratory infections, in children. More than a half-million Indonesians were estimated to suffer ill health effects from the 2015 blazes.

A study published by scientists from Harvard and Columbia universities in 2016 showed that severe haze in 2015 may have caused more than 100,000 premature deaths in Southeast Asia, a claim downplayed by the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Driejana, the air quality expert, said the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has done “quite a lot” since 2015 to address the problem and has had success in reducing the severity of fires, identifying the sources of haze, enforcing newly introduced laws, and providing “a lot of education for the community” regarding the risks of fires.

Steps taken

Indonesia arrested several corporate executives in relation to the 2015 haze, and Jokowi later established the Peatland Restoration Agency under a presidential decree in January 2016 and has focused on fire prevention, mitigation, and enforcement.

But WRI’s Wijaya said, “Fires are only a symptom of weak or failed land use governance.” While big palm oil or paper plantation companies have largely stopped using burning methods for land clearing, “smallholders may have a big role in setting up fires,” he said.

“You can still see things, but when you go out of the house, you need to wear a mask,” Ratri Kusumohartono, a campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia, told VOA of the current air quality conditions in Pontianak.

After a week in the city of about 235,000 people, Kusumohartono told VOA in a telephone interview that she had been hospitalized for two days and said doctors had reported increasing numbers of casualty admissions for respiratory conditions.

In the past week, local media reported that at least four farmers who were tending their fields were killed when they became trapped in blazes.

“I have also talked with some other NGOs here the past few days and they’re also quite worried that the government is not taking this more seriously, in terms of getting fires out and keeping people safe, because at this point some fires are already a few meters away from people’s housing,” Kusumohartono said. “It’s really time for the government to step up their efforts to manage this.”

Link: https://www.voanews.com/a/concerns-rising-in-ASEAN-over-Borneo-fires-haze/4542338.html

Schools close as haze worsens in Pontianak in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan

Schools close as haze worsens in Pontianak in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan

PUBLISHED AUG 21, 2018, 1:21 PM SGT

PONTIANAK, INDONESIA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Authorities in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, have ordered temporary school closures, as thick haze from forest fires has worsened in the city.

Pontianak Mayor Sutarmidji announced the school closures on Sunday (Aug 19) via his Facebook account.

“I have instructed PAUD (early childhood education centers), kindergarten and elementary schools to close and resume operations on Aug 27. As for junior high schools, students can go back to school on Friday,” he wrote.

The closure applies to all schools that are under regional government supervision.

Meanwhile, the West Kalimantan Education and Culture Agency has issued a circular that calls on senior high schools to close from Monday to Thursday in Pontianak and Kubu Raya regency, which are affected by the haze.

The agency stated that the closures might be extended depending on the haze.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said hotspots detected in West Kalimantan had decreased to 526 by 8.22am local time on Monday. On the morning of Aug 16, the BNPB had recorded 1,061 hotspots across the province.

Six helicopters have been deployed to combat the forest fires in the province, which resulted from employing slash-and-burn practices to clear agricultural land.

Link: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/schools-close-as-haze-worsens-in-pontianak-in-indonesias-west-kalimantan