Forest fires started deliberately are wreaking havoc
At our recent ‘In the Bog‘ international conference, Professor Jack Rieley made an impassioned plea on behalf of colleague’s battling against forest fires and destruction of peatlands in Indonesia.
Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Kalimantan Tengah) is a province of Indonesia. It is one of five provinces in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. Its provincial capital is Palangkaraya and in 2010, its population was over 2.2 million, while the latest official estimate (for January 2014) is 2,368,654. The population growth rate was almost 3.0% per annum between 1990 and 2000, one of the highest provincial growth rates in Indonesia during that time; in the subsequent decade to 2010 the average annual growth rate slowed markedly to around 1.8%. More than is the case in other province in the region, Central Kalimantan is populated by the Dayaks, the indigenous inhabitants of Borneo.
Central Kalimantan is the third largest Indonesian province by area with a size of 153,564.5 km2 , about 1.5 times the size of the island of Java. It is bordered by West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan provinces to the north, by the Java Sea to the south, by South Kalimantan and East Kalimantan provinces to the east, and by West Kalimantan province to west.
The Schwaner Mountains stretch from the north-east of the province to the south-west, 80% of which is covered in dense forest, peatland swamps, mangroves, rivers, and traditional agriculture land. Highland areas in the north-east are remote and not easily accessible. Non-volcanic mounts are scattered in this area including Kengkabang, Samiajang, Liang Pahang and Ulu Gedang.
The centre of the province is covered with tropical forest, which produces rattan, resin and valuable timber such as Ulin and Meranti. The southern lowlands are dominated by peatland swamps that intersect with many rivers. Sabangau National Park is a protected peatland area internationally acknowledged as sanctuary for the endangered Orangutan. Recently the peat swamp forests have been damaged by the Mega Rice Project, which unsuccessfully sought to turn large areas into rice paddies.
The province’s climate is wet weather equatorial zone with an eight-month rainy season, and 4 months of dry season. Rainfall or precipitation is 2,776 – 3,393 mm per year with an average of 145 rainy days annually. (description courtesy of Wikipedia)
Peatland tropical forests are on fire – and the local resources to combat this are exhausted. Surprising perhaps that Western media seems to have missed this completely. The implications of colossal biodiversity loss, of the destruction of ancestral homelands of indigenous people, and a massive release of stored carbon into the atmosphere, are beyond comprehension. So what is being done as ruthless, greedy plantation owners and politicians bring about tragedy? Apparently not a lot.