Wildfires of unprecedented size have been burning through the lush forests of Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia since August. The government has no idea how to control them, and the mounting damages are staggering. The release of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide gasses is more than triple the annual amount for the country, surpassing Japan and Germany in emissions, according to the Global Fire Emissions Database. Plus, El Niño is keeping rainfall away from the islands.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia alleges that the blazes were intentionally set by palm oil and pulp farmers carrying out slash-and-burn agriculture. Rampant draining of the swamp-like peatlands before the fires started has exacerbated the issue by effectively turning the areas into tinderboxes of dry organic material. The burns, which can reach as far down as ten feet below the surface, have sent large amounts of smoke into the air, blotting out sunlight and sending a haze as far as Malaysia and Singapore several hundred miles away. They’ve also reportedly caused over 500,000 cases of acute respiratory infections, according to Al Jazeera.
Greenpeace commissioned photographer Ardiles Rante to document just how severe the village of Sei Ahass in Borneo has been affected. The organization has also called for a halt to current logging, the re-flooding of drained peatland, and for publicly accessible mapping of current harvesting, which it has been linked to the greatest burned areas.
Photo: Two women carry buckets of silverware in Sei Ahass. “They go to the river to perform daily activities—washing dishes and clothes,” says Rodrigo Estrada, a media officer for Greenpeace U.S. “The little houses are owned by each family.”