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Where's the Fire?

Forest Fires in Sumatra

When I woke up this morning, I thought my building was on fire. I could smell fire, could see haze out my window and when I opened my door the effects got about 5x worse. However, no one else seemed to notice the conditions, and certainly no one was concerned about the building, so I just went about getting ready for the day as usual. When I met up with my friends from the other side of campus, we realized the fire smell was all throughout the air, and probably all over the city. Out next thought was maybe the jungle in the middle of the island, where Kourtney and I had hiked this past weekend, had started to burn.

A cab driver later in the day explained that on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra, they burn the forest for farm land. I learned about this idea in my Southeast Asian Studies class, and it is called swidden agriculture. This practice is when you let the land sit through the dry season, and a few weeks before the wet season started you burn it and plant your crops in the newly fertilized fields. Then the rains from the monsoons come and allow your crops to grow. This type of farming requires circulating your land, as the burning only allows for 1 harvest every 20 years on that plot.

The car driver told us the haze can last anywhere from a few days to a month, but that it varies daily with the wind patterns. Sumatra is Indonesia's biggest island, and it located to the west of Singapore and Malaysia. Hopefully the fires only last a short time, as the haze blocks the sun and makes it slightly harder to breath (we were told it triggers a lot of asthma attacks). Luckily the winds blow slightly northeast, and so Thailand and Malaysia get the effects much worse than Singapore.

Posted by Cassi 22:16 Archived in Singapore

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