Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency issued emergency alerts on Wednesday, July 26, for the five provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, and South Kalimantan for the potential spread of forest fires.
The number of fire hotspots continues to increase, from 168 on July 23 to 269 on Thursday, July 27.
Amid a growing number of hotspots in Indonesia, five provinces in Indonesia are on emergency alert for the spread of forest fires in peatlands. Satellite images from the government shows the number of hotspots creeping up, from 168 on Sunday to 269 on Thursday.
Earlier this month, the district of West Aceh also said it was on emergency alert when forest fires had spread over 70 ha within a week, producing haze and causing respiratory problems among the local population.
The western province of Riau previously declared a state of emergency on January 24 to begin taking measures to prevent forest and land fires (and the resulting severe haze) ahead of what was expected to be significantly drier weather in 2017 as compared to 2016.
For more than 20 years, fires have been an annual occurrence in the region as farmers and agricultural companies clear Indonesia’s forests and carbon-rich peatlands to make way for pulpwood, palm oil, and rubber plantations or for smaller-scale subsistence farming.
The fires have gradually been getting worse and were particularly bad in 2015 due to a prolonged dry season caused by the El Niño weather pattern.
While past efforts by the government and neighboring countries to prevent the fires or put them out once started have shown little success, hotspots were reportedly reduced in 2016 by 83 percent compared to 2015.
Individuals present in these areas are advised to follow all instructions issued by local authorities and to monitor any developments to the situation.