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    Oct 22, 2015

    Indonesia fires emit more greenhouse gases than US


    INDONESIAN forest and peatland fires choking South-east Asia in haze are spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each day than all economic activity in the United States, according to a global environmental watchdog.

    The shock assessment came as Jakarta said the number of blazes was increasing across the archipelago despite a multinational fire-fighting effort, and announced plans to deploy more water-bombing aircraft, Agence France-Presse reported.

    The US-based World Resources Institute (WRI) said in a recent report that since early last month, carbon emissions from the fires in Indonesia had exceeded average US daily output on 26 out of 44 days.

    The US is the world's second-largest greenhouse gas source after China.

    The WRI, which focuses on environment and development issues, normally classifies Indonesia as the fifth biggest emitter.

    "The burning of tropical peatlands is so significant for greenhouse gas emissions because these areas store some of the highest quantities of carbon on earth, accumulated over thousands of years," the WRI, which cited findings by its branch Global Forest Watch (GFW), said.

    "Draining and burning these lands for agricultural expansion, such as conversion to oil palm or pulpwood plantations, leads to huge spikes in greenhouse gas emissions."

    According to the report, nearly 100,000 forest and peatland fires were detected in Indonesia so far this year, with the number for the whole year likely to top that in 2006, one of the country's worst on record.

    The GFW calculated that the Indonesian fires have discharged about 1,043 metric tons of carbon dioxide (Mt CO2) equivalent emissions into the atmosphere this year.

    The average daily emissions from the entire US economy is about 15.95 Mt CO2.

    As the haze condition has again worsened, Malaysia yesterday ordered 4,778 schools to close today, The Star daily reported.

    Air quality was in the "very unhealthy" range around Kuala Lumpur yesterday under the official rating system, while much of Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak experienced "unhealthy" air.

    Air quality in Singapore was also in the "unhealthy" range.

    Indonesia had decided late on Tuesday to rent another 10 to 15 water-bombing planes as a number of fires have proven hard to put out while new hot spots are being detected, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the national disaster management agency.

    About 30 planes were involved in water-bombing and rain-making this week, including those from Singapore and Malaysia which arrived last week.

    Two Russian planes were scheduled to arrive yesterday to provide assistance.