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2019-10-01. Indonesia’s fires are bad, but new measures prevented them from becoming worse.

posted Oct 9, 2019, 11:21 AM by Alan Gould
By Dennis Normile, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/10/indonesias-fires-are-bad-new-measures-prevented-them-becoming-worse] For GSS A New World View chapter 5. Excerpt: Once again haze is suffocating Indonesia, but some scientists say it could have been worse. Acrid smoke from fires set to clear land for agriculture has sent scores to hospitals with respiratory problems and closed thousands of schools in Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia. At its thickest, in mid-September, more than 100 flights had to be canceled because of poor visibility. Although the government has tried to seed clouds for rain and dump water from the air, only the monsoon rains due later this month are likely to quench the fires. Yet countermeasures Indonesia has taken since the last major haze event, in 2015, have helped limit this year’s disaster. A new agency is restoring degraded peatlands, where agribusiness has drained and dried out meters-thick layers of waterlogged vegetation, making it vulnerable to ground fires that are almost impossible to stop. The government has also beefed up a moratorium on the conversion of prime forest land underlain by peat. The efforts “are providing some positive results,” says Arief Wijaya of the Indonesian branch of the World Resources Institute in Jakarta. But virtually all experts agree that more is needed, including stricter enforcement of a ban on setting fires....