Forest fires cost Indonesia $16 billion, contribute to climate change

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Indonesia wildfireForest fires in Indonesia last year cost the country at least $16 billion in economic losses, equivalent to 1.9 per cent of its GDP, according to the World Bank.

Indonesia made “some mistakes” in responding to challenges such as the fires and resulting haze, World Bank Country Director Rodrigo Chaves said at a media briefing in Jakarta on January 20. The problem was not so much the fires themselves, though they did cause a significant amount of devastation, Chaves noted. The mistakes in dealing with the fires, however, led to a thick haze cloud which was the real cause of damage to the Indonesian economy, costing the nation twice as much as it took to rebuild infrastructure after the 2004 tsunami.

The haze had “a direct and palpable impact” on the nation’s agriculture, tourism, forestry, trade and transport. It is an almost annual ritual, but the smoke from these fires – mainly caused by illegal burning in the tropical rain forests – also blanket Singapore and parts of Malaysia and even Thailand. It can be bad enough to cause school closings, respiratory distress and flight cancellations.

Coupled with the problems of climate change, this leads to millions of dollars in property losses as well as these secondary effects. As a result, the World Bank warns, Indonesia needs to develop a better, more comprehensive plan for preventing wildfires in the first place and dealing with their aftermath, or it may find itself hemorrhaging money in an unhealthy and growth-stagnating way.

The fires – which are expected to flare up again in the coming months – also may affect temperatures far away from the nation’s watery borders. Carbon dioxide and methane from the fires is already known to be accelerating global warming, and new research is linking high levels of another potent greenhouse gas with forest and peat fires in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Analysis by the World Resources Institute suggested the Indonesian fires were releasing more greenhouse gases every day than US power plants. The fires were worsened by the ongoing El Nino, and another crippling bout of them is anticipated in February and March.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Forest fires in Indonesia last year cost the country at least $16 billion in economic losses, equivalent to 1.9 per cent of its GDP, according to the World Bank.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Indonesia wildfireForest fires in Indonesia last year cost the country at least $16 billion in economic losses, equivalent to 1.9 per cent of its GDP, according to the World Bank.

Indonesia made “some mistakes” in responding to challenges such as the fires and resulting haze, World Bank Country Director Rodrigo Chaves said at a media briefing in Jakarta on January 20. The problem was not so much the fires themselves, though they did cause a significant amount of devastation, Chaves noted. The mistakes in dealing with the fires, however, led to a thick haze cloud which was the real cause of damage to the Indonesian economy, costing the nation twice as much as it took to rebuild infrastructure after the 2004 tsunami.

The haze had “a direct and palpable impact” on the nation’s agriculture, tourism, forestry, trade and transport. It is an almost annual ritual, but the smoke from these fires – mainly caused by illegal burning in the tropical rain forests – also blanket Singapore and parts of Malaysia and even Thailand. It can be bad enough to cause school closings, respiratory distress and flight cancellations.

Coupled with the problems of climate change, this leads to millions of dollars in property losses as well as these secondary effects. As a result, the World Bank warns, Indonesia needs to develop a better, more comprehensive plan for preventing wildfires in the first place and dealing with their aftermath, or it may find itself hemorrhaging money in an unhealthy and growth-stagnating way.

The fires – which are expected to flare up again in the coming months – also may affect temperatures far away from the nation’s watery borders. Carbon dioxide and methane from the fires is already known to be accelerating global warming, and new research is linking high levels of another potent greenhouse gas with forest and peat fires in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Analysis by the World Resources Institute suggested the Indonesian fires were releasing more greenhouse gases every day than US power plants. The fires were worsened by the ongoing El Nino, and another crippling bout of them is anticipated in February and March.

 

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