April 22, 2021

Fires in Indonesia subside with the arrival of first rains

Forest fires in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo, which have caused a regional health crisis, remit with the beginning of the rainy season, which also ends the era of agricultural burning, said on Tuesday the National Agency of Management of Disasters (BNPB)

"Satellite images show that air quality has improved, along with the reduction in the number of heat sources," Agus Wibowo, a BNPB spokesman, said in a statement today.

Sporadic rainfall, which began last week and is expected to continue over the next few days, has reduced the number of fires and greatly alleviated the enormous cloud of smoke that also spread through Malaysia and Singapore, which caused tensions between countries

In the last five days the heat sources have been reduced to less than 700 locations from the range of 1,500 to 6,000 that was recorded during much of the month of September, says the National Aerospace Agency (LAPAN).

The BNPB attributes the rains to the method known as "cloud seeding", which attempts to cause rains by discharging chemical compounds in the clouds, although it is also due to the end of the dry season, foreseen in most of Sumatra and Borneo in the middle of the month .

For its part, the ASEAN Specialized Center for Meteorology indicates that the fires will continue in some areas that remain dry, although it foresees that rainfall on the two islands "moderates the risk of cross-border smoke."

So far, data on the extent of land burned in September have not been published, when fires intensified and caused the declaration of a state of emergency in several provinces, although 328,700 hectares burned between January and August.

During September, the cloud of polluting smoke affected Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, where, as in parts of Indonesia, thousands of cases of respiratory infection were reported in addition to forcing the closure of schools and the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

The vast majority of the fires, against which more than 29,000 firefighters, volunteers and officials from other agencies have been deployed, were caused by companies and small farmers to make way for plantations, generally destined for palm oil, according to BNPB.

This year in Indonesia is the driest since 2015, when the fire swept an area of ​​2.6 million hectares, which prompted a series of government measures to protect and restore protected forests and peat bogs.

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