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RELEASE: Indonesia’s Government and Global Forest Watch join forces to launch powerful new system to combat fires and haze

New Global Forest Watch-Fires platform and partnership to empower government agencies, businesses, and civil society to track and respond to haze-causing fires in near real-time

JAKARTA//WASHINGTON (July 23, 2014) — Indonesia’s National REDD+ Agency (BP REDD+) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) launched Global Forest Watch-Fires (GFW-Fires), an online platform for monitoring and responding to forest and land fires in Southeast Asia. GFW-Fires will be released as part of the Indonesian national Karhutla (Land and Forest Fires) Monitoring System. The platform will feature high-resolution satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe (a leading provider of satellite imagery), near real-time fire alerts from NASA, an SMS alert system, land-use and concession maps, and more. GFW-Fires is a collaboration between BP REDD+, Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), WRI, DigitalGlobe, Google, Esri, and others.

The GFW-Fires platform features a wealth of data and tools to allow governments, businesses, and civil society in Indonesia to monitor and more effectively combat fires and haze. This includes:

  • Near real-time fire alerts from both NASA and NOAA, mapped online and instantly distributed to local officials, company fire fighters, village heads and others via an text-message alerting system.
  • Real-time wind direction and air quality data showing areas that are at the greatest risk from haze;
  • Ultra-high resolution satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe, whose satellites provide 50 cm resolution imagery of active and recent fires. This can help determine the exact location of fire activity and signal who may be responsible. DigitalGlobe will also upload the images into their Tomnod platform to power crowdsourcing campaigns to rapidly identify burned areas;
  • Massive computational support from Google Earth Engine to provide other key analyses, such as detailed mapping of “burn scars”;
  • Concession maps for palm oil, timber, and wood fiber companies, as well as maps of protected areas, land cover from WRI, BP REDD+, the Ministry of Forestry, and others.
  • Geotagged social media conversations about the fires and haze allowing Twitter conversations about fires and haze to be monitored.

GFW-Fires builds on the platform and analysis established by Global Forest Watch, a dynamic online forest monitoring and alert system empowering people everywhere to better manage forests.

“Building and operating an advanced monitoring system is one of the BP REDD+’s key approaches for forest fire management besides the development of regional governments’ capacity in forest fire management and auditing compliance over the concessions area where hotspots are frequently identified,” said Heru Prasetyo, Head of Indonesia’s National REDD+ Agency (BP REDD+).

Monitoring, capacity building, and enforcement are among the approaches launched by the Government of Indonesia to tackle forest fires in Indonesia. The government is investing in fire and forest management as a strategy to move to a lower-carbon society, and achieve its stated goal of a 26 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2020, or 41 percent reduction with international support.

"Learning from BNPB experiences in deploying national resources through working together with related Government Agencies and TNI/Police in combatting forest & land fires in Riau Province for the last 2 years, we support any effort to strengthen prevention program rather than response by applying GFW-Fires as part of national haze control system", said Dody Ruswandi, Deputy Head for Prevention & Preparedness of Indonesia National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).

“The fires are a constant source of threat to our people’s well-being and people are demanding action. GFW-Fires unites powerful technologies with the capabilities of Indonesia’s government and technical experts from around the world,” said Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, Deputy Foreign Minister, Indonesia, and Chairman of the Board, WRI Indonesia. “On social media and in the streets, we have seen the Indonesian people asking for better information about where these fires are occurring and how their government is responding. With this alliance, we will be able to start answering these questions and have a better information platform to act more effectively on the ground.”

“GFW-Fires combined with other aspects of the Indonesian Government’s Karhutla Forest Fires Monitoring System enables more rapid fires response and will greater accountability where crimes of illegal burning may have been committed,” said Dr. Nigel Sizer, Global Director of the Forests program at WRI. “It combines new data, cutting edge technologies, and innovative partnerships to provide the right information in the format people need to help to address a longstanding and extremely serious problem.”

Fires in Indonesia are driven by a complex set of issues. Fires are often used to clear land for agriculture, but are also sometimes used by companies and communities in conflict over land. Whatever the cause, fires produce a toxic haze with severe negative impacts for the environment, economy, and human health.

In June 2013, fires spread haze across Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, shutting down schools and airports. In March 2014, more than 51,000 people in Indonesia suffered respiratory illnesses due to fires, which resulted in an estimated IDR 20 trillion (US $1.7 billion) in local damages. Previous research from WRI indicates that over half of the fires occurring in Sumatra in recent months have occurred in the province of Riau, concentrated in a handful of districts and subdristricts. Most of the fires occur on peat (soil largely composed of partially decomposed organic material), greatly worsening the resulting haze, and many are found within the concession boundaries of palm oil, pulpwood and logging companies.

“This represents one of the first moments when Southeast Asia’s fires will be monitored in near real-time from above using high-resolution satellite imagery,” said Jeffrey R. Tarr, President and CEO, DigitalGlobe. “As part of our Seeing a Better World™ program, our imagery will be available through GFW-Fires and our Tomnod crowdsourcing platform, which is a major step toward understanding the problem so it can be better addressed.”

“We are seeing a huge increase in our ability to monitor disasters and environmental change in near real time with new technologies,” said Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Outreach and Earth Engine. “We can now use satellites and cloud computing to quickly map where fires are burning and what effect they are having. This is a brand new approach to crack a very old and persistent problem.”

Image: A 50 cm –resolution satellite image of fires in Riau, Indonesia from DigitalGlobe, on the Global Forest Watch Fires platform.


About BP REDD+
The REDD+ Agency Indonesia is responsible to support the President of Republic of Indonesia in coordinating, harmonizing, planning, facilitate, managing, monitoring, supervising and controlling the REDD+ implementation in Indonesia. (www.reddplus.go.id)

About World Resources Institute
WRI is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in the United States, China, India, Brazil, and more. Our more than 450 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources—the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being. (www.wri.org)

About Global Forest Watch
Global Forest Watch-Fires is a project of Global Forest Watch. Global Forest Watch (GFW) is a dynamic online forest monitoring and alert system empowering people everywhere to better manage forests. For the first time, GFW unites satellite technology, open data, and crowdsourcing to guarantee access to timely and reliable information about forests. Armed with the latest information from GFW, governments, businesses, and communities can halt forest loss. (www.globalforestwatch.org)

For more information visit: fires.globalforestwatch.org

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