Indonesia is facing a severe wildfire and haze crisis as the dry season, which is expected to peak this month, worsens across the country. The country has recorded nearly 500 wildfires this year, more than three times the number of fires in 2022.
The majority of the fires have occurred in the provinces of Central and East Kalimantan, which are home to vast areas of peatland and forests. Peatland fires are particularly hard to extinguish and produce thick smoke that can travel long distances and affect the air quality and health of millions of people.
The fires are mostly caused by human activities, such as slash-and-burn farming, land clearing and illegal logging. The dry and hot weather conditions, exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon, have made the fires more likely to spread and ignite.
The Indonesian government has deployed thousands of personnel, helicopters and planes to fight the fires and prevent them from spreading. It has also declared a state of emergency in several regions and imposed a moratorium on new permits for peatland conversion.
However, these efforts have been hampered by the lack of resources, coordination and enforcement. The government has also faced criticism for its slow and inadequate response to the crisis, as well as its failure to prevent the recurrence of the fires, which have plagued the country for decades.
The wildfire and haze crisis has also affected Indonesia’s neighbors, such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, which have experienced reduced visibility and increased respiratory problems due to the transboundary pollution. The crisis has also strained the diplomatic relations among these countries, as they have exchanged complaints and accusations over the responsibility and management of the fires.
The wildfire and haze crisis poses a serious threat to Indonesia’s environment, economy and public health. It also undermines its international reputation and commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect biodiversity. The crisis calls for urgent and comprehensive action from all stakeholders, including the government, the private sector, the civil society and the international community.