You may be complaining about how the weather has turned hotter and drier in Singapore lately, forcing us to shove our sweaters and jackets back into our closets where they’ll sit unused for the rest of the year until December rolls around again.
But over in Indonesia, things are threatening to reach a boiling point.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced on 22 February that hot spots had been detected on Sumatra, urging local authorities to get ready for the possibility of forest fires in the later part of this year.
Indonesian President Warns of Forest Fires After Hot Spots Detected on Sumatra
According to Jokowi (as is widely known), Sumatra is contending with an increasing risk of forest fires this month.
He said that the Kalimantan region on Borneo island and Sulawesi island could start facing forest fires from May to July, and predicted that the peak period will be around August to September.
And as is typically the case when it comes to issues of the environment, we only have ourselves to blame.
The president attributed 99% of forest fires to human activity, pointing out that farmers often use fire as an inexpensive way to clear land. He appealed to local governments to get forest fire containment infrastructure ready in preparation for the fires.
Jokowi warned that the forest fires could result in adverse economic effects, as well as “damage to our ecology and ecosystem”.
Indonesia’s History of Forest Fires
Indonesia has been persistently plagued by forest fires.
You may remember that in 2019, some 1.6 million hectares of forests went up in flames—which, according to CNA, is an area 27 times the size of Greater Jakarta, costing the Indonesian economy a whopping US$5.2 billion.
The 2015 haze crisis caused a state of emergency to be declared. More than 500,000 suffered from respiratory ailments as a result and the economy was severely affected.
For more information on Indonesia’s history of forest fires, read this article.
Will Singapore Be Affected?
The projection of forest fires in Indonesia for 2021 will surely leave Singaporeans wondering if our country will be impacted, and if so, just how badly.
I’m sure most Singaporeans will be able to recall the haze nightmare of 2015 which forced schools in Singapore to close as PSI readings reached hazardous levels.
And in 2019 the PSI exceeded 100 for the first time in three years, straying into the “unhealthy” range.
So far, there has been no information on whether or not Singapore can expect a return of the haze in 2021, so we can only hope for the best.
After all, we are still battling a highly contagious respiratory disease that won’t take pity on us, haze or no haze. Adding PM2.5 particles into the mix certainly would not bode well for us.
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