In Indonesia, forest fires have been blazing across the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, causing the closing of thousands of schools across the country and in the neighboring country of Malaysia. The fires are considered to be the worst to hit the region since 2015.
The fires are rapidly destroying air quality in the city of Singapore in the days leading up the Formula One motor race. Thousands of security and water-bombing forces have been deployed to battle the fires.
Smog, resulting from the fires, is having a tremendous effect on the health of endangered orangutans in Borneo, causing upper respiratory infections, as reported by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.
The latest development, skies over Indonesia have turned red over the weekend due to the smoky haze from the forest fires.
Residents in nearby areas are complaining that the haze is hurting their eyes and throats. Many residents are taking pictures of the red sky.
Wildfires burn across Indonesian forests every year and cover the skies over the Southeast Asian region with a smoky haze.
According to a meteorological expert from the BBC, the coloration of the sky is due to a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, the same method by which light waves are scattered by particles to make the sky appear blue usually; this was explained by Professor Koh Tieh Yong, of the Singapore University of Social Sciences.
Twenty-one year old, Eka Wulandari, of the Mekar Sari village in Jambi province, captured images of the blood-red sky and posted them on social media. Since posting the images, they have been shared over thirty thousand times.
She also told the BBC that many people who saw her pictures online had doubted whether or not they were real.
Another Indonesian, Zuni Shofi Yatun Nisa, posted a video on Twitter showing the colored sky. He was quoted saying, “This is not Mars, this is Jambi.”
Satellite imagery from the Indonesia meteorological agency BMKG showed hotspots and intense smoke distribution around the Jambi region.
Ini sore bukan malam. Ini bumi bukan planet mars. Ini jambi bukan di luar angkasa. Ini kami yang bernafas dengan paru-paru, bukannya dengan insang. Kami ini manusia butuh udara yang bersih, bukan penuh asap.
Lokasi : Kumpeh, Muaro Jambi #KabutAsap #KebakaranHutanMakinMenggila pic.twitter.com/ZwGMVhItwi
— Zuni Shofi Yatun Nisa (@zunishofiyn) September 21, 2019
According to experts, this is the worst haze in years. The haze is the result of open burning throughout Indonesia and parts of Malaysia, normally peaking between the months of July and October, the region’s dry season. Indonesia’s national disaster agency reports that around 328,724 hectares of land have already burned earlier in the year.
Big corporations and small-scale farmers are partly to blame for the haze due to the slash-and-burn methods employed in order to clear vegetation for palm oil, pulp, and paper plants. This method, some argue, is the easiest way for farmers to clear land as well as rid the area of any diseases which may affect their crops.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 23, 2019
Unfortunately, these fires often burn out of control and spread to protected parts of the forests.
Although slash-and-burn is illegal in Indonesia, the practice continues unchecked, which many say is the fault of corrupt and unstable government.
In recent years, the production of palm oil has also been largely responsible for the endangerment of orangutans in Borneo due to the destruction of forests by corporations and farmers. As many as 50,000 orangutans have died at last count.