The Issues Of Forest Fires Environmental Sciences Essay

2696 words (11 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Environmental Sciences Reference this

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In the 21st century, influences of forest fires from demographic rapid changes, increase in human activities and unpredictable change in climate have become a crucial environmental problem in the ecosystems of the Southeast Asia region. It has unfavorably affected the natural environment and has put to risk the sustainable development as well as the management of resources (ADB, 2001). Indeed, haze pollution has been seriously affecting Indonesia and its neighboring countries due to the extensive burning of forests that arises in almost every year in Indonesia during the last 25 years. In 1997-1998, the global community raised its awareness on the critical conditions of constant haze and burning of forests. The occurrence of forest fires continued over long periods of time since the year 1998. The worst circumstances happened during 2001 and 2002 where the forest reserves and plantation areas of Riau province, West and Central Kalimantan and Sumatra burned. These corresponding areas were also affected by forest fires in 2003. The widespread forest fires happened in Sumatra and Kalimantan during March-July 2004 led to the increase of air pollution in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and especially in Indonesia.

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To determine the extent of burning is by knowing the extent of deforestation in Indonesia given that it is greatly caused by fire and not the destruction through spraying of chemicals. Estimates on the loss of forests have been compiled since 1985 and is evident in the report of World Bank in 2001. According to the reports, beginning at 1985 to 1997, the range of forest cover has been reduced from 119 million hectares to approximately 100 million hectares. The forest fires happened in 1997 to 1998 desolated 1.7 million hectares in Sumatra, 6.5 million hectares in Kalimantan, 1.0 million hectares in Irian Jaya and 0.4 million hectares in Sulewesi, and brought about air pollution in Indonesia and its neighboring countries. From the given information on the annual loss of forests during 1985 to 1997, it is expected that the forest lands in Indonesia is now just over 90 million hectares from 1.7 million hectares.

Causes of forest burning

The sources of forest burning in Indonesia are divided into three groups: traditional cultivators, small scale investors, and large scale investors.

The most long-lived source of forest burning is the subsistence and semi-subsistence traditional cultivators. Some of these are the inactive farmers who burn their small lands after harvest in order to kill the pests or weeds and also to refresh the soil to be used for planting. Others are known as the shifting cultivators who practice the common slash and burn methods to empty a small plot of the forest for crop cultivation.

The second source of forest burning is the pioneer and migrant farmers. These farmers are given the authorization to acquire several hectares of forested land for them to clear by burning and of course to plant commercial tree crops.

The third source of forest burning is the timber and palm oil plantation companies. Timber plantation companies first select trees of commercial value for cutting in an area and then the other remaining trees and bushes are burned in order to make way for the planting of trees that grow much faster and are used for commercial purposes. The oil plantation companies also apply the similar process of forest burning in order to create widespread palm oil plantations. The Indonesian government grants these companies of additional land concessions because these sectors such as logging and palm oil companies contribute significantly to the external trade of the Indonesian economy and thus provides a major source of foreign revenue.

Apart from the three main sources of forest burning, there are other factors that contribute to the forest fires. These are political, economic, physiographic, sociocultural, and institutional factors as well. The most important of these are the policies and institutions. According to the Asian Development Bank (2001), ‘lack of political will, inappropriate and poorly specified policies, weak legislation, ambiguous regulations, bureaucratic procedures, land-use conflicts, and inadequate resources for enforcement of laws and regulations were again and again crucial and crippling constraints.’

Harmful effects of forest burning

It has indeed proved by the international environmental and health organizations that forest burning and air pollution have serious destructive consequences. The harmful effects are both seen in the areas of burning and in other areas and countries far from the fires (Jones, 2006). These impacts have several dimensions- economic, environmental, ecological, social, and others that may be onsite and offsite, direct or indirect (ADB, 2001).

It is widely considered that the most serious effect of forest burning has been on public health, particularly as a result of people breathing in pollutants from burning of forests. Inhaling the smoke from the fires result in respiratory ailments such as upper respiratory tract infections, bronchial asthma and decrease in lung functioning. Also, it is evident that the smoke has serious effects on the skin and on the cardiovascular system. According to the estimations made by the Friends of the Earth in 1997, ‘the haze has already claimed the lives of 19 people in Indonesia and over 40,000 people have been hospitalized. Up to 70 million people across the region are being affected, and health experts have warned that up to 20 % of all deaths in the region could be caused by the smog.’ Furthermore, press reports in June 2003 stated that thousands of people admitted to hospitals in Central and Kalimantan complained on breathing difficulties as well as eye irritation, while in 2004, health clinics and hospitals on the island of Sumatra mentioned that several patients seek for medications on respiratory problems.

Forest fire impacts have also affected the social welfare through the displacement of communities, loss of income sources, and decreasing livelihood opportunities (ADB, 2001).

Another serious effect of forest burning has been on climate, agriculture and bio-diversity. Further decrease in rainfall combining with effects of El Nino and decrease in sunlight that affected the photosynthesis of plants are due to the smoke brought about by forest burning. Besides this, forest burning has also led to soil erosion and flooding that ultimately reduced the productivity of agriculture. Furthermore, the Indonesian rain forests are home to a wide variety of plants and animals where in some of these are rare or endangered. According to the World Bank and Friends for the Earth, as a result of widespread forest burning, it has threatened the lives of numerous rare or endangered species. Forest fires also contribute to the global climate change and warming due to its greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

These harmful effects, definitely, have detrimental economic and financial impacts on Indonesia and its neighboring countries. Evidently, the costs of these impacts include loss of forest timber, reduced agricultural production, losses resulting from soil erosion, medical expenses caused by ailments directly related to the haze, increased proneness to pests and diseases, need for new investments in forest rehabilitation and fire protection measures, costs arising from disruption to air travel and transport, and decreased revenue from tourism (ADB, 2001; Jones, 2006). It also had serious impacts on the means of livelihoods of indigenous people and it threatened the ability of the poor to improve their lives (ASEAN STRATEGY). According to the estimations made by the Asian Development Bank, the incident during the 1997-1998 alone cost the people and the Indonesian government around US$8.9 to US$9.7 billion.

Linkage between climate change and social development

Undoubtedly, the major impacts and threats of transboundary haze pollution that can contribute to climactic change are widespread. The most vulnerable to haze pollution (or climate change) are the poor because of the inability to adapt and recover to certain changes due to low income and limited access to basic services and needs. Also, the areas that they live in are highly exposed to natural hazards and are linked with their sources of income such as agriculture and forestry which are known to be climate-sensitive sectors. That is why it is necessary to come up with an immediate action. One solution is the need for adaptation where it is a process through which societies make themselves better able to cope with an uncertain future. It calls for taking the right measures to reduce the negative effects of transboundary haze pollution (or climate change) by making appropriate adjustments and changes. There are several options and opportunities to adapt such as technological options, behavior change at individual level and early warning systems for extreme events. As a result of the speed at which change is happening, it is important that the vulnerability of Indonesia and other neighboring countries to haze pollution (or climate change) is reduced and their capacity to adapt is increased and national adaptation plans are implemented.

Although adaptation to haze pollution (or climate change) is essential and is considered as an urgent priority, the affected countries have limitations that make adaptation difficult. These limitations are human capacity and financial resources. The major barriers for adaptation are the lack of funding in various forms and difficulties in accessing the funds which are available. In order for these affected countries to understand the impacts and vulnerabilities of the issue, as well as facilitating better policy decisions and management, it is necessary for research and training to be included in adaptation. However, these affected countries still face difficulties in incorporating concerns regarding the haze pollution into national policies because of lack of resources and institutional capacities. Despite the difficulties, in order for effective adaptation measures to work, the stakeholders must consider integrating the issue of haze pollution in all levels of decision making especially in planning and budgeting.

Objectives

The purpose of this paper is to present a framework analysis in such a way that it will be applied to the social issue being discussed, specifically the transboundary pollution in Southeast Asia. The framework tool to be used will be based on the polycentric approach in order to enhance policy actions regarding the widespread haze pollution in Indonesia and other affected neighboring countries. Also, one of the objectives of this paper is to discuss the stakeholders using the stakeholder analysis wherein it will identify the people, groups, and institutions involved that will influence the issue positively or negatively. Throughout the paper, included in the objectives, still, is to come up with a conclusion based on the analysis and recognize the failures that the framework tool was not able to elucidate. Finally, it also aims to give recommendations for the improvement or success of the issue.

Stakeholder Analysis

Secondary

Stakeholders

Stakeholder’s Interest(s) in the issue

Assessment of

Impact

Influence of the group

Global Agencies

-World Bank, IMF, UNDP, UNEP, WHO, WMO, UNICEF

Adaptation measures on haze pollution

Prevention of haze pollution across the globe

High

High

Regional Organizations

-ASEAN, APEC, ADB

Prevention of haze pollution in Indonesia and affected countries particularly in Asia

High

High

Concerned institutions

-health care, environmental protection, schools, religious organizations, charitable institutions

Prevention of haze pollution

Low

Medium

Concerned nongovernmental institutions

-emergency associations (e.g. Red Cross, Medicins sans Frontieres)

-Development NGOs

-Environmental NGOs

Prevention of haze pollution

Low

Medium

Primary

Stakeholders

Stakeholder’s Interest(s) in the issue

Assessment of

Impact

Influence of the

group

“Victim” State governments

-Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia &Indonesia

-relevant central government agencies (Health, Environment, Tourism)

-local authorities (agencies representing small farmers)

Increase in response capacity on haze pollution

Prevention of widespread haze pollution

Adaptation measures

High

High

“Victim” Industries

-tourism &recreation

-airlines

-ancillary industries

Prevention on widespread haze pollution

Medium

Low

Low-income groups; farmers; minor forest users

Increase in adaptive capacities

High

Medium

“Culprit” state governments

-Indonesia

-central government agencies (agricultural, environment)

-regional/provincial agencies

-local authorities (agencies representing small farmers)

Decrease in source of foreign revenue

High

High

“Culprit” Industries

-Forestry

-Palm oil

-ancillary (e.g. haulage)

Decrease or loss in plantation business

Medium

Medium

III. Analysis

Framework of Analysis

The framework to be used on the social issue of haze pollution in Indonesia is the polycentric approach. According to Ostrom (2010), “polycentricity is a useful analytical approach for understanding and improving efforts to reduce the threat of climate change.” Furthermore, “polycentric” implies the independence of many centers of decision making to each other. These centers of decision making take each other into account in competitive relationships, engage in all manners of contractual and cooperative projects or aid in to central mechanisms to resolve conflicts and various political jurisdictions and function in an organized manner to which consistency and predictable patterns of interacting behavior are involved. Rather than a monocentric unit, polycentric systems are characterized by multiple governing authorities at differing scales. “Each unit within a polycentric system exercises considerable independence to make norms and rules within a specific domain (such as family, a firm, local government, a network of local governments, a state or province, a region, a national government, or international regime)”(Ostrom, 2010). Participants involved in this system have the advantage to use local knowledge and learning from other sectors who are engaged in trial and error process. Problems identified with non-contributors, local tyrants and inappropriate discrimination can be addressed and major investments made in new scientific information and innovations when larger units get involved. Polycentric systems are believed to have considerable advantages because of their mechanisms for mutual monitoring, learning and adaptation of better strategies. This system also enhances ‘innovation, learning, adaptation, trustworthiness, levels of cooperation of participants, and the achievement of more effective, equitable, and sustainable outcomes at multiple scales, even though no institutional arrangement

can totally eliminate opportunism with respect to the provision and production of collective goods’ (Ostrom, 2010).

Through this framework tool, adaptation measures and prevention of haze pollution in Indonesia and its neighboring countries would be much easier to be implemented because of its ability to solve such problems in a collective manner that includes all its stakeholders rather than focusing only on one central stakeholder.

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