Forest and peat fires in Indonesia’s Riau province, on the island of Sumatra, spiked to levels not seen since the previous Southeast Asian haze crisis of June 2013, according to a blog post by the World Resources Institute.
The fires are extensive in areas with deep peat soils, suggesting high volumes of carbon are being released, contributing to climate change.
Global Forest Watch reports that clearing land for agriculture is the major direct cause of the fires. Roughly half of the fires are burning on land managed by pulpwood, palm oil, and logging companies.
The fires are now even more prevalent than in June 2013 and are burning at an unusual time. The incident is linked to the extreme drought now affecting the region, which makes burning easier and increases the likelihood that fires will burn out of control.
The latest incident is the latest fire episode impacting Indonesia and surrounding countries. Indonesia’s government fails to release the most timely, updated information on where oil palm, pulpwood, and logging companies are operating. Sharing of the latest concession boundaries and land ownership could foster better coordination between government agencies trying to tackle the fires, WRI says.