- An extremely important Associated Press (AP)
article appeared in The Washington Post on 11-14-97 entitled: "Malaysia
Eyes Artificial Cyclone."
- The story stated that Malaysia will try "Russian
technology touted to create cyclones that chase away haze" created
by Indonesian forest and peat fires.
- Mayalsian Environment Minister Law Hieng Ding
was quoted as saying in the Star daily, "I cannot tell you in detail
now about the whole mechanism involved except that it is strong enough
to change weather systems."
- While in the past the United States has vehemently
denied the existance of weather control, the AP quoted Environmental Minister
Law Hieng Ding as saying Malaysia will use Russian satellite technology
that creates cyclones to rid Indonesia of it's forest fire haze. Mr. Ding
further stated that Russia's technology was tested and proven.
- It has long been claimed by a number of scientists
and activist groups that both the U.S. and former Soviet Union have been
experimenting with weather control, largely for military purposes, for
at least 25 years. Patents on such devices have been applied for and granted
and the Russians are actually marketing smaller devices for localized use
anywhere in the world.
- Indonesia's Peat Smolders
- By Claire Gilbert, Ph.D.
Copyright 1997, All rights reserved
- SARAWAK, Malaysia, November 13, 1997
(ENS) - For the first time in three months, the air is clear. People in
parts of Southeast Asia breathed more easily as good winds and rain cleared
the air of a lot of the damaging particles from forest fires burning out
of control in Indonesia. The monsoon rain which would dampen the fires
has been delayed because of El Nino effects.
- The correct name of El Nino is "El
Nino Southern Oscillation" or "ENSO." The oscillation refers
to the normal flow of tropical ocean water either hitting a standstill
or being reversed.
- The El Nino effect has piled up heated
ocean waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean along the west coast of South
America and brought colder water to the Indonesian Pacific.
- This means lower relative humidity for
12,500 Indonesia islands, and conditions adverse to rainfall. Despite yesterday's
stormy downpour, the Pacific Ocean is still noticeably cooler than normal,
according to a map prepared by the U.S. Fleet Numerical Meteorology and
Oceanography Center today. During the worst air pollution events, the air
tends to be stable due to an inversion layer near the surface from the
cool surroundings, making smoke from fires "localize."
- Cyclone Linda recently fanned the forest
and peat flames. New forest fires were also reported within the week. Burning
peat, itself, may be a catastrophe of major proportions.
- From satellites, 2 hot spots are currently
seen in Java, 23 in Sumatra, and 35 In Kalimantan, Indonesia. The latter
shares Borneo Island with the Country of Brunei and also Malaysia, including
Sarawak. On September 25, Sarawak had a reading of 800 on its air quality
index. Over 100 (or less) can affect some people adversely.
- Reacting to the air pollution crisis,
Tze-Hien (Clarence) Yong of Kuching, Malaysia, set up a web site which
gives daily readings on the haze for a number of cities and a lot of other
useful information. He created the "Haze Online Report" <http://www.vensara.com/haze/
when Sarawak declared a state of emergency on September 22. Yong proudly
says, "We were the first one reporting the disaster on the Internet."
- The haze was already present for a month
or longer before it caught the world's attention when it skyrocketed in
late September. Sarawak, Malaysia, is downwind of the Indonesian forest
fires and gets the brunt of the haze.
- MILLION PEOPLE AT RISK
- The pollutants in the smoke from forest
and ground fires are still threatening the health of some 20 million Indonesians,
the Suara Pembaruan daily quoted Suryoputro of Diponegoro University as
saying. The deputy-dean of the medical faculty said up to five percent
of 20 million people had already been affected. The impact on others will
only be seen between two and 10 years from now. Further, he told the Indonesia
Times, pollutants could exacerbate heart and asthma problems, while causing
mental and brain disorders, inflammation and respiratory infections, skin
and eye allergies.
- According to Forrest Mims, III, a scientific
investigator, as a result of the forest fires in Indonesia, there is an
increase of certain infectious diseases in the haze areas. This is also
true in areas affected by the forest fires in the Amazon. The increase
in infectious diseases appears to be correlated with a significant reduction
of ultra violet rays.
- THE WEATHER SPEECH POLICE ARE WATCHING
- In recent days, Malaysia has "gagged"
academics. They are no longer permitted to make public comments on forest
fires and the weather without first clearing them with a supervisor. Ostensibly,
the reason is for accuracy in reporting, but some see this as an abridgement
of freedom of speech.
- Jacqui Michel works in Sarawak for Research
Planning, Inc., a U.S. firm hired by the Malaysian government to help it
plan a response strategy to the haze, such as advising people to stay in
during a crisis. Michel says that Malaysia has a "response strategy"
rather than a preventative one.
- PEAT BURNING SENDS CARBON SKY-HIGH
- The main air quality problem in Sarawak
is particles rather than gases from the forest fires, Michel says. One
reason there is so much particulate matter is that peat swamps are burning
in Indonesia, and they throw up a lot of carbon.
- Lawrence Radke, a Senior Scientist at
the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, was one of the primary
researchers who studied the oil fire smoke in Kuwait. He specializes in
the study of forest fire behavior. He says, with regard to protecting oneself
from a malignant haze, "A simple 3-M dust/mist mask can help considerably
to keep out the particles and gases from haze, lasts a long time, and is
cheap." It costs about US$4.00.
- The amount of carbon these extensive
peat fires can throw up into the atmosphere is enormous, exceeding that
of what Europe emits. The emissions may also impact global warming in a
positive feedback loop - they will also make the forest burn more. When
forests and peat marshes are normal, they are a good carbon "sink,"
i.e., they keep a lot of carbon from being in the atmosphere, helping to
prevent global warming.
- Peat fires are considered the most dangerous.
Peat has accumulated in lowland areas for 7,000 or more years and may be
20 feet deep. When undisturbed, it serves to store rain during the monsoon
season, and slowly releases the moisture back into the air during drier
times. When heavy rains occur, the peat prevents flooding by acting like
- The Center for International Forestry
Research at Bogor, near Jakarta, says the main pollution on Borneo was
now coming from a fire in a one million hectare area of peat being drained
by the government for a massive rice planting project. President Suharto
backs this project, intended to ensure Indonesia's self-sufficiency in
- When the peat is exposed, it quickly
dries out. Once dry, it ignites easily. Once burning, sometimes the fire
goes deeply into the earth and then cannot be extinguished, even by heavy
- There are still peat fires burning in
the earth from 1983, presumably when the last severe El Nino hit. Rain
does not extinguish deep peat or coal fires. They smoulder, like self-combustion,
- The current El Nino may be even stronger
than the one in 1982- 1983, which some say was the strongest on record.
It is possible that overall global warming or climate change has increased
the frequency and severity of these El Nino events.
- The action of burning forests (or even
clearing them) may have local, regional, and global effects. Forests act
to hold carbon and when the forest is destroyed, the result is more carbon
and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Removing forests heats up the local
area somewhat. In the case of a huge release of carbon by burning peat,
the regional and global climate is also affected.
- Possibly when the monsoon comes, it will
cause flooding or serious acid rain. The monsoon may be delayed for a couple
of months or may not occur at all because of El Nino.
- TERROR FOR WILDLIFE
- According to the World Conservation Monitoring
Center, the fires in Indonesia are now threatening at least 19 protected
areas, all internationally important, including a World Heritage site (Ujung
Kulon in Java), Ramsar Wetland (Berbak in Sumatra) and Biosphere Reserve
(Tanjung Puting in Kalimantan). These areas are protected partly because
they hold the world's biodiversity riches. The forest fires are also a
terror for wildlife.
- A large number of endangered species
are in the path of the fires. Fruit-eating animals and birds such as orangutans
and hornbills are especially affected by fire, because the trees that they
rely on take many years to mature and fruit. These two species, like many
others, are already under tremendous pressure from severe habitat loss.
- Indonesia's Environment Minister, Sarwono
Kusumaatmaja, said the country's forests could take 500 years to recover
from damage caused by fires and logging, according to Michael Mundy, a
journalist in Kuala Lumpur.
- Deliberately burning forests in the tropics
in an El Nino year is tricky business. The burning easily gets out of control.
This puts more carbon and other greenhouse gases in the air, putting more
pressure on climate change. Climate change can lead to still stronger weather
events, including El Ninos.
- Malaysia has signed a regional agreement
with other countries for the purpose of managing forests and other resources
better. The general philosphy of Indonesia and neighbors, however, may
be that development is a trade off with the environment.
- Radke says we need to look more at the
consequences of what we do instead of just the immediate actions, such
as clearing forests or swamps. He says, "Whenever you fool with factors
that affect the environment, some kind of changes will happen." --
*Claire Gilbert is editor and publisher of a monthly health and environment
newsletter, Blazing Tattles, available by subscription. Visit Blazing Tattles'
Web Site for information http://www.concentric.net/~blazingt or send email
to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you very much.
For more information on Indonesia's fires: