Forest fires are both naturally occurring, and human-caused. Indonesia - a country about one fifth the size of the United States located in Southeast Asia – sees its fair share of fires on an annual basis. The impact is large, and it can be felt across the globe.
No matter the cause, or how they occur, these fires emit toxins into the environment, affect people’s health, and interrupt the local and global economy. Reducing the risk of fires can improve quality of life for the country’s citizens, and the global community.
Luckily, there is a new tool that can help diminish the magnitude of these fires, and in-turn decrease deforestation.
“Global Forest Watch Fires (GFW Fires) is an online platform for monitoring and responding to forest and land fires in the ASEAN region using near real-time information.”
By collaborating with NASA to source data from their Active Fires system, GFW Fires can provide a timely analysis that shows where a fire is occurring, where it might occur, and also who might be responsible. This information and data is shared and made available publicly to enable a quicker response time when it matters most.
Since Indonesia contains a high level of peat soils – a type of soil with a high concentration of decayed organic matter – the country’s forests are at higher risk of fires that are hard to put out. These types of fires cause greater negative environmental impact since a large amount of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere with each concentrated acre.
GFW Fires system offers more than one solution. First and foremost, it offers a reduction in deforestation due to forest fires being better maintained given a quicker response time. In some instances, fires can be prevented altogether.
“With daily warnings on when and where land is most flammable, government agents, companies and communities can channel resources to areas most likely to burn.”
Another impact that will be felt thanks to this system is heightened awareness. Since information is openly shared amongst organizations around the globe, those interested in reducing deforestation can start to put important pieces of the puzzle together with the real-time data provided and shared.
In addition, by identifying who might be responsible for initiating these fires, a greater level of accountability is possible. The palm oil industry is a well-known culprit when it comes to deforestation in Indonesia, perhaps in having a live monitoring system, there will be a reduction in the misuse of land as there is a greater chance of being caught.
Given the positive that is possible from this new system, hopefully more people will catch on and make use of the data. When there is an increase in demand, an increase in supply soon follows.
The GFW Fires is a great example of team work, with many people on board to make this platform a success. The effort is supported by many partners, though it is primarily organized by the World Resources Institute.
Interested in learning more and reviewing the map, you can check out the site here.