Over the past few days, WRI has been tracking the location of forest and land fires on Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. In this update, WRI examines the historical trends of forest fires in Sumatra. Read our previous analysis.
Fires continue to burn in Indonesia, spreading haze and suffering across the country and into Malaysia and Singapore. New research from the World Resources Institute reveals troubling trends about the blazes:
The current fires are not beyond the normal historic range for fires in the region, but that may change as the fires continue to burn heavily.
The recent fires are part of a longstanding, endemic crisis of forest fires and land clearing in Indonesia, and bold action is needed to prevent the crisis from escalating.
In this new analysis, WRI examines the historical trends of forest fires in Sumatra. Rapid analysis from WRI finds that the current forest fires observed in the Riau Province fit into a larger pattern of widespread forest and land fires. However, June 2013 is on track to be one of the worst months on record since 2001. Evaluation of recent wind patterns explains why the fires’ impact was felt so acutely in Singapore.
WRI explored these trends using two key data sets:
Historic fire alerts from NASA’s Active Fire Data, which shows fire alerts for the period of January 1, 2001 until the present.
Information on air dispersion to Singapore derived from NOAA’s HYSPLIT model, which takes into account meteorological data and can be used to estimate the most likely path that air traveled to reach a particular location at a given time.
This post was co-authored with Carita Chan, an intern with WRI's forests initiative.
As the crisis of tropical deforestation reaches a new level of urgency due to forest fires raging in Indonesia, an important question is how can the world satisfy the growing demand for forest products while still preserving forest ecosystems? This week, some of the world’s largest companies will join U.S. and Indonesian government officials in Jakarta at the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) meeting to discuss this issue.
The meeting comes three years after the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a group of the world’s 400 largest consumer goods companies from 70 countries, announced their commitment to source only deforestation-free commodities in their supply chains and help achieve net-zero deforestation by 2020. The TFA 2020, a public-private partnership established in 2012 at the Rio+20 Summit, aims to provide concrete guidance on how to implement the forum’s pledge.
Last Friday, the World Resources Institute (WRI) published detailed data on the location of forest and land fires on Sumatra, which have spread a noxious and harmful haze across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, and caused widespread public concern. Governments from all three nations, many companies, and news outlets are seeking data to help understand the origin and spread of the fires, and determine who should be held accountable.
WRI now has an updated assessment of fire alerts in Sumatra, showing the progression of alerts through time and location in relation to company concessions. The new analysis incorporates two important data updates:
New fire alerts from NASA’s Active Fire Data, which shows the most recent fire alerts for the period of June 20-23 (previous analysis was for June 12-20).
Penduduk di,Singapura, sebagian dari Indonesia dan Malaysia sedang mengalami kabut asap yang menganggu aktivitas sehari-hari akibat kebakaran hutan. Tingkat kualitas udara di Singapura telah jatuh ke tingkat terburuk yang pernah tercatat di pulau tersebut sedangkan bandara di Indonesia dan beberapa sekolah di Malaysia harus ditutup. Hampir semua kebakaran yang terjadi baru-baru ini (12-20 Juni) berasal dari titik api di Sumatera.
Media massa banyak memuat debat sengit mengenai lokasi, sebab, dan sifat kebakaran. Saat ini WRI telah menyusun beberapa data awal yang menunjukkan beberapa pola menarik. Data awal menunjukkan kebakaran yang terjadi relatif sedikit di kawasan lindung dan konsesi penebangan. Lebih dari setengah dari peringatan titik api yang ditemukan terjadi pada hutan tanaman industri dan perkebunan kelapa sawit. Meskipun membakar hutan bagi perusahaan di Indonesia merupakan perbuatan ilegal, perusahaan di masa lalu telah diketahui menggunakan api untuk pembukaan lahan. Hal ini akan menjadi penting untuk mengumpulkan informasi lebih lanjut mengenai lokasi kebakaran dan penyebabnya. Informasi ini dapat memberi implikasi penting bagi perusahaan-perusahaan dan badan pemerintah yang terlibat.
People in Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of Malaysia are currently suffering from debilitating levels of haze resulting from forest fires. Air quality levels in Singapore have deteriorated to the worst levels ever recorded on the island, while local airports in Indonesia and some schools in Malaysia have had to close. Almost all of the recent fires (June 12-20) have occurred in Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia.
While there’s been heated debate on the location, cause, and nature of the fires, WRI has compiled some initial data that reveals that there are some patterns. Relatively few fires have occurred in protected areas and selective logging concessions. Furthermore, half of the fires are burning on timber and oil palm plantations. Although it is illegal for companies in Indonesia to start forest or land fires, several companies have used fires for land clearing in the past. It will be important to gather more detailed information about the exact location of the fires and their causes, which could have important implications for the companies and government agencies involved.
A Look Inside the Forest Fire Data
WRI gathered information from NASA’s Active Fire Data, which uses satellite data to pinpoint the location of fires in near real time, together with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s concession maps for oil palm, logging concessions, and timber plantation licenses. We counted the number of NASA fire alerts in each concession in Indonesia and tabulated the results.
This was a bold decision by a leader known for his commitment to sustainability. Extending the moratorium is a victory for the Indonesian people, business, and the planet.
The moratorium will directly benefit more than 80 million Indonesians who rely on forests for their livelihood. Many of these people are extremely poor and have struggled to gain recognition for their land rights. Extending the moratorium provides an opportunity to address these crucial issues.
Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a bold and courageous decision this week to extend the country’s forest moratorium. With this decision, which aims to prevent new clearing of primary forests and peat lands for another two years, the government could help protect valuable forests and drive sustainable development.
Enacted two years ago, Indonesia’s forest moratorium has already made some progress in improving forest management. However, much more can be done. The extension offers Indonesia a tremendous opportunity: a chance to reduce emissions, curb deforestation, and greatly strengthen forest governance in a country that holds some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems.
Boosting Achievements from Indonesia’s Forest Moratorium
Indonesia ranks as one of world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, largely due to the clearing of forest and peat lands. The forest moratorium aims to address this problem by prohibiting the award of new licenses to clear or convert primary natural forests and peat lands to agriculture or other uses. This will encompass an area of over 43 million hectares of land. Forest users with existing licenses are still allowed to operate in these regions, and there are several exceptions to the rule.
As the old adage suggests, it is important to see the forests for more than just the trees. While an estimated 500 million people depend directly on forests for their livelihoods, the entire world depends on them for food, water, clean air, and vital medicines. Forests also absorb carbon dioxide, making them critical to curbing climate change.
Despite some encouraging anti-deforestation efforts in places like Brazil, Indonesia, and Africa, globally, forests are under threat, particularly in the tropics. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 13 million hectares of forests were lost every year. About 30 percent of the global forest cover has been completely cleared, and 20 percent has been degraded.
This dilemma begs the question: What is the outlook for forests in 2030? Are we missing the opportunity to preserve forests and ensure they continue to deliver the goods and services we need for a growing global population? How can we use forests to build a thriving global green economy?
Asking these questions is important. Finding answers to the challenges they raise is imperative.
Forests are vitally important for the global environment, economy, and population. The forest sector employs 13.7 million workers and contributes to about 1 percent of the global GDP. Plus, an estimated 500 million people around the world directly depend on forests for their livelihoods.
But forests are also under threat. From 2000-2010, about 15 million hectares of the world’s forests were cleared, and a 2004 assessment estimated that 8-10 percent of the global wood trade is of illegal origin. In addition to deforestation, illegal logging can cause government revenue losses, poverty, unfair competition with legally sourced goods, unplanned and uncontrolled forest management, conflicts, and other illicit activities that can occur in instances where illegal logging’s proceeds are linked to organized crime and corruption.
But there are solutions. One way to improve forest management across the globe is for businesses, governments, and citizens to seek out and demand sustainably harvested wood and paper products.
African farmers currently face a crisis. Droughts and unpredictable weather, in combination with decreasing soil fertility and pests, have caused crop failure on many of the continent’s drylands.
But there are solutions—namely, low-cost farmer innovations. Chris Reij, a Sustainable Land Management Specialist with Free University Amsterdam and a Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute, is leading the charge in this area. Reij facilitates the “African Re-greening Initiatives,” a movement that supports collaboration among partners working at the local level to help African farmers adapt to climate change and develop productive, sustainable farming systems.