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Indonesia warns over forest fires on Borneo

by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Aug 7, 2008
The number of forest fires on Indonesian Borneo has soared over the past two days due to land clearing, raising concerns it could lead to haze over Malaysia and Singapore, an official said Thursday.

More than 400 forest fires from traditional farming methods -- blamed for the smoke which shrouds the region annually -- were being monitored on Indonesian Borneo Thursday compared to 217 on Wednesday, officials said.

"It's doubled again to 415 hotspots, mostly from West Kalimantan," Israr Albar, a forestry ministry official monitoring the forest fires via satellite, told AFP.

He said 65 percent of hotspots recorded were from land clearing by local residents and the rest were from commercial plantation operations.

State-owned Antara news agency reported that the increasing number of forest fires had affected the air quality in Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan, despite government promises to control the annual burn-off.

"The air quality has been unhealthy for the last few days," the head of the provincial environmental impact agency was quoted as saying.

Malaysian environmental department director-general Rosnani Ibrahim said earlier this week that "we are concerned with the increasing number of hotspots," although there was no sign yet of a haze as a result.

The number of hotspots in Sumatra also showed a dramatic increase over the weekend, according to Malaysian meteorologists.

The dry season from June to the end of September is the period of highest risk for the haze, which has poisoned the air in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore several times.

Experts also warn that the haze contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions and could be impacting on climate change.

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E-waste poisoning environment in Ghana: Greenpeace
Lagos (AFP) Aug 6, 2008
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