Submitted by: Eileen Guo
100,000 deaths. 500,000 ill. 16 million dollars in damage. These were all caused by the forest fires that currently plague Indonesia. The biggest concern is the air pollution from these fires, as tiny particles from the forest fires enter people’s lungs and cause respiratory problems like asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks and brain strokes.
Even though these fires typically break out in September, scientists started watching out for fires in July because they knew El Nino, the ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures, was going to hit hard.
In Indonesia and most of Southern Asia, much of the land is dry and can easily catch fire. Since the fire spreads quickly, these kinds of fires can only be put out by rain.
A major reason why there are so many forest fires is the Indonesian government’s inability to enforce laws that prevent people from setting forest fires in provinces and islands. Also, local corruption and population pressure play large roles in why there are so many forest fires.
The Indonesian government currently doesn’t know how to solve this problem, and NASA strongly stresses that in order to save more lives, countries like Indonesia need to strengthen their preventive measures. If you ever visit Southern Asia, be careful of dry areas!