Advertisement

Fires in tropical forests – what is really the problem? lessons from Indonesia

  • L. Tacconi
  • P. F. Moore
  • D. Kaimowitz
Article

Abstract

Fires have attracted interest and generated alarm since the early 1980s. This concern has been particularly evident in tropical forests of Southeast Asia and the Amazon, but disastrous fires in recent summers in Australia, Europe, and the United States have drawn worldwide attention.

Concern about forest fires, and related air pollution and biodiversity impacts, led international organisations and northern countries – such as the Asian Development Bank, the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank, and the government of Germany – to undertake fire assessments and provide technical assistance. Nongovernmental organisations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and World Wide Fund for Nature, have also devoted increased attention to fires. Aiming at prevention of future fires, 40 fire projects and missions costing well over US$30 million have worked in Indonesia over the last 20 years. Despite the money and effort spent on them, fires continue to burn every year. It may appear to some that efforts to address the ‘fire problem’ have not been effective as fires still occur.

There remains a lack of clarity about ‘fire problems’, which has, at times, led to the adoption of policies that may have negative impacts on livelihoods, the environment, and the economy. Two ‘simple’ changes in the way fires are considered would significantly improve fire-related policies and initiatives.
  • Fires should be seen as a component of land management processes, rather than as a ‘problem’ to be prevented, suppressed, or mitigated.

  • Not all fires are the same.

These two points are discussed in the context of Southeast Asia, and particularly Indonesia, as an example of the problems and questions faced by tropical countries. We argue that efforts on fires so far have generated increased knowledge of the ’fire problem’; now, we need to capitalize on that knowledge to avoid wasting money in the future.

Keywords

Causes of fires Deforestation Economics El Niño Governance Haze Peat 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. BAPPENAS-ADB (1999) Causes extent, impact and costs of 1997/1998 fires and drought, final report, annex 1 and 2. Planning for fire prevention and drought management project. Asian Development Bank TA 2999-INO, Jakarta, National Development Planning Agency and Asian Development BankGoogle Scholar
  2. Bellamy DJ (1997) The peatlands of Indonesia: their key role in global conservation – can they be used sustainably? In: Rieley JO, Page SE (eds) Biodiversity and sustainability of tropical peatlands. Samara Publishing Ltd., Cardigan, pp 19–22Google Scholar
  3. Byron N, Shepherd G (1998) Indonesia and the 1997–98 El Niño: fire problems and long-term solutions. ODI Natural Resource Perspectives 28:1–7Google Scholar
  4. Chokkalingam U, Tacconi L, Ruchiat Y (2001) Fire use peatland transformation and local livelihoods: a case of positive reinforcement? In: Rieley JO, Page SE (eds) Peatland for people: Natural resource functions and sustainable management. Proceedings of the international symposium on tropical Peatlands. BPPT and Indonesian Peat Association, Jakarta, pp 191–196Google Scholar
  5. Cochrane MA (2002) Spreading like wildfire: Tropical forest fires in Latin America and the Caribbean. UNEP, Mexico CityGoogle Scholar
  6. Dennis R (1999) A eeview of fire projects in Indonesia (1982–1998). Center for International Forestry Research, BogorGoogle Scholar
  7. Dennis R, Erman A, Stolle F, Applegate G (2000) The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-East Asia. Site 3. Danau Sentarum, West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research, World Agroforestry Center, United States Forest Service, BogorGoogle Scholar
  8. FAO (2000) Global forest fire assessment 1999–2000. Working Paper 55, FAO, Rome,Google Scholar
  9. FWI, WRI, GFW (2002) The state of the forest: Indonesia. World Resources Institute, Washington, D.CGoogle Scholar
  10. Glover D, Jessup T (eds) (1999) Indonesias fires and haze: The cost of catastrophe. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, International Development Research Centre, SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  11. Gouyon A (1999) The sustainable development of tree crops and the prevention of vegetation fires in South Sumatra, Indonesia: Jungle Rubber. EU-Forest Fire Prevention and Control Unit, MoFEC, PalembangGoogle Scholar
  12. Gouyon A, Simorangkir D (2002) The economics of fire use in agriculture and forestry: A Preliminary Review for Indonesia. Project FireFight South East Asia, JakartaGoogle Scholar
  13. Hinrichs A, Solichin (1999) East Kalimantan: A short description of forestry sector. MoFEC, GTZ, SamarindaGoogle Scholar
  14. International wildland fire conference and exhibition (October 4–8 2003). http://www.wildlandfire03.comGoogle Scholar
  15. Laris P (2002) Burning the seasonal mosaic: preventing burning strategies in the wooded savanna of Southern Mali. Human Ecology 30:155–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Nepstad D (2002) A heated fight against devastation – review of forest fires: behavior and ecological effects. Edited by Edward A Johnson, Kiyoko Miyanishi. Nature 415:476Google Scholar
  17. Nepstad DC, Moreira AG, Alencar AA (1999) Flames in the rain forest: origins, impacts and alternatives to Amazonian fire. Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forest, Ministry of Environment, Secretariat for the Co-ordination of the AmazonGoogle Scholar
  18. Page SE, Siegert F, Rieley JO, Boehm HD, Jaya A, Limin S (2002) The amount of carbon released from peat and forest fires in Indonesia during 1997. Nature 420:61–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Potter L (2001) Drought, fire and haze in the historical record of Malaysia. In: Eaton P, Radojevic M (eds) Forest fires and regional haze in Southeast Asia. Nova Science Publishers, New York, pp 23–40Google Scholar
  20. Putz FE, Dykstra D, Heinrich R (2000) Why poor logging practices persist in the tropics. Conservation Biology 14:951–956CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Qadri ST (ed) (2001) Fire, smoke, and haze: the ASEAN response strategy. Asian Development Bank, Association of South East Asian Nations, ManilaGoogle Scholar
  22. Sierra Club (2002) Forest fires: beyond the heat and hype. Sierra Club. Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  23. Suyanto S, Dennis RA, Kurniawan I, Stolle F, Maus P, Applegate G (2000) The underlying causes and impacts of fires in South-East Asia. Site 1. Sekincau, Lampung Province, Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research, World Agroforestry Center, United States Forest Service, BogorGoogle Scholar
  24. Tacconi L (2003) Fires in Indonesia: causes, costs and policy implications. Occasional Paper No. 38. Center for International Forestry Research, BogorGoogle Scholar
  25. Vayda AP (1998) Finding the causes of the 1997–1998 Indonesian forest fires: problems and possibilities. WWF-Indonesia Program, JakartaGoogle Scholar
  26. Williams M (2003) Deforesting the earth: from prehistory to global crisis. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and LondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR)JakartaIndonesia
  2. 2.Metis Associates, formerly with Project FireFight South East AsiaNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations