Peatland fires, haze and health

Forest and peatland fires, which occur on an annual basis in Indonesia, affect the entire Southeast Asian region and result in extensive environmental destruction as well as threats to livelihoods. In particular, the displacement of massive pollution – a brown cloud consisting of fire-born particles mixed with industrial pollution – over Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand in June 2013 caused a ‘haze crisis’ in the region and led to the development of trans-boundary legal measures. Most importantly, smoke-born damages resulting from haze are detrimental to the environment and have irreversible long-term impacts on human health. Peat smoke represents a major concern due to the adverse health effects, notably respiratory diseases and symptoms, and Indonesia’s forest and peatland fires are estimated to cause approximately 110,000 premature deaths annually. The 2015 fires affected 43 million people and hospitalized 550,000, along with an overall economic damage assessed at US$16 billion.

In response, UN Environment, the UN’s Pulse Lab Jakarta and UNICEF have initiated a collaboration to enable affected local communities by improving their disaster risk management capacity. The discussion will showcase innovative tools piloted by the Government of Indonesia such as the Haze Gazer and early warning Fire Risk System for tracking and managing the impact of fire and haze events, among others.