FIRES IN SUMATRA SURPASS JUNE 2013 LEVELS
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he may take over management of the escalating fires on the island of Sumatra if local officials in Riau province do not increase their efforts to stop the burning. According to the World Resources Institute, Sumatra had 3,101 fire “hot spots” from February 20-March 11—a number that far exceeds the fire alerts from June 13-30, 2013, the peak of the previous haze crisis. Global Forest Watch, an online system that tracks fires and tree cover damage, reported that the fires are primarily due to the clearing of land for agriculture, particularly by pulpwood, palm oil, and logging companies. Although many companies have announced “no burn” policies, Global Forest Watch has shown that some of the largest fires are occurring on these companies’ land. The smog pushed Malaysia’s air pollutant index to 345 at 10 am last Friday, a level considered hazardous. According to the Disaster Management Agency, nearly 50,000 Indonesians are suffering from respiratory ailments due to haze, while schools in several Malaysian districts closed on Friday due to the high levels of smog. For the full story, see http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/14/fires-indonesia-highest-levels-2012-haze-emergency and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-14/yudhoyono-faults-fire-effort-as-haze-turns-hazardous-in-malaysia.html.