Forest Fires, Indonesia, Peat Fires

Forest Fires, Indonesia

Subterranean blaze: Indonesia struggles to douse undergound fires

Vast blazes are ripping across the archipelago's rainforests, unleashing a toxic haze over Southeast Asia.

16.9.2019

Vast blazes are ripping across the archipelago's rainforests, unleashing a toxic haze over Southeast Asia.

Thousands of Indonesia n firefighters are locked in an around-the-clock game of Whack-a-Mole as they battle to extinguish an invisible enemy -- underground fires that aggravate global warming. Vast blazes are ripping across the archipelago's rainforests, unleashing a toxic haze over Southeast Asia

But many of the blazes smoulder deep underground in once-swampy areas known as peatlands, where they can last for months and release eye-watering amounts of thick, acrid smoke.

"The forest and peatland fires that occur every year are a crisis created by human behaviour," said Rusmadya Maharuddin, a forest campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia.

At the peak of Indonesia's 2015 forest fires -- the country's worst in two decades -- blazes in peat swamp forests emitted nearly 16 million tonnes of carbon emissions daily, more than the entire US economy in the same period, according to watchdog The International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Fighting peatland fires comes with myriad challenges because they're often in remote locations, the soft soil makes them inaccessible by car and firefighters need huge amounts of water -- often pumped below ground -- to get at subterranean blazes.

"Water-bombing is not very effective because you just can't drop enough water" to douse them, he added.

"So, one of the challenges is just to detect them."

But despite Indonesia's progress over the past few decades, fighting fires is still a challenge even for countries like the United States, Canada and Australia which have some of the top technologies and fire prevention programmes, Brady said.

Read more: Yahoo Singapore

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