Rhett A. Butler http://www.facebook.com/plugi
Dozens of fires are raging across Indonesia’s Tesso Nilo National Park National Park, a protected area that has lost more than 40 percent of its forest cover since 2000, reveals new analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI).
WRI’s analysis of NASA satellite data shows that there have been 185 fire alerts within the boundaries of Tesso Nilo since May 29, 2015. About a quarter of these are “high-confidence fire alerts” which WRI says are “more likely to be associated with forest burning during land clearing for agriculture”.
A flyover by Mongabay in early June confirmed several fires in Tesso Nilo. The flyover also documented active forest clearance and new plantation development within the boundaries of the protected area.
Global Forest Watch gif showing recent forest loss within Tesso Nilo. Courtesy of WRI.
Tesso Nilo, which became infamous last year after a visit by Harrison Ford highlighted large-scale forest destruction for illegal oil palm plantations, has become one of the best examples of the challenges facing Indonesia’s forests.
Accordingly, the fires raise concerns about the country’s ability and willingness to combat deforestation and fire-setting at a time when scientists are warning that el Niño could bring unusually dry conditions to the region, potentially exacerbating the polluting “haze” that typically results from peat and forest burning in the region.
Tesso Nilo’s problems partly result from a long delay in establishing the park. During that period of uncertainty, local officials encouraged mass migration into the area from North Sumatra. Sometimes with the financial backing and logistical support of local barons, settlers moved into forest areas, felling and burning trees to establish oil palm plantations. Investigations have found that palm oil is now making its way into international markets.
Still, despite the publicly generated by Harrison Ford and the Showtime special Years of Living Dangerously, little has changed in Tesso Nilo as the new data shows.
WRI says that the Indonesian government now has the tools to address the issue, including an advanced fire alert system and Global Forest Watch as a platform for monitoring change in forest cover. It also has a powerful political mandate in the form of pressure from Singapore and Malaysia to put an end the regional haze. But what it still seems to lack is the will to take action.
Fire and burned areas in Tesso Nilo National Park. Taken by Rhett Butler in June 2015.
Ryan Park · Top CommenterThe problem is that most national parks and protected areas in Indonesia only have 1 or 2 forest guards protecting an entire park. They lack the financial and political support needed to combat the issue. Another issue is that the number of settlers within Tesso Nilo is around 5000. With such a high population, the pressure on the remaining forest is enormous. It’s no wonder that the destruction is continuing at the pace it’s at. One that will unlikely end until this problem is tackled directly for a long period of time.
Ryan Park · Top CommenterAlso, while there is action being done now to attempt to control the forest and land fires, it will not stop or even reduce the issue from reoccurring. As the Indonesian government often only takes action when the fires have been occurring for several weeks. Once the fires subside, they go back to ignoring the issue until it’s a problem again. This cycle needs to end if the country wishes to find a long term solution to the issue.