The annual haze in the Southeast Asian region is caused mainly by forest fires and burning of palm oil plantations in western Indonesia. The haze pollution has also affected Singapore and Malaysia, which lie close to the Indonesian province of Riau, the ‘ground zero’ of the forest fires.
In order to allow firefighters to quickly respond to forest and land fire incidents, an online fire monitoring tool has been developed using real-time information.
The Global Forest Watch-Fires (GFW-Fires) online tool uses “real-time satellite data from NASA’s Active Fires system, high resolution satellite imagery, detailed maps of land cover and concessions for key commodities such as palm oil and wood pulp, weather conditions and air quality data to track fire activity.”
GFW-Fires can empower people to better combat harmful fires before they burn out of control and hold accountable those who may have burned forests illegally.
The tool was developed by the World Resources Institute, DigitalGlobe, the Indonesian government, Google, and Esri.
In an interview with FutureGov, Andika Putraditama of the World Resources Institute explained the uniqueness and value of the GFW-Fires platform:
While there have been other fire monitoring tools in the past, the GFW-Fires system is unique because it combines data, such as hotspots, wind direction, land shape and features, and concessions [forestry licenses], on a single platform.
The GFW-Fires has reportedly reduced the time it takes for firefighters to respond to fire outbreaks from 20 hours down to two to four hours.
Nigel Sizer, James Anderson and Josh Winer discussed how using the Digital Globe imagery can help pinpoint the cause of the forest and land fires:
Access to this super-spectral, very high resolution satellite imagery provides us with rare insight into the fires. …You can see down to the individual tree level and even identify species…Even the flames of active fires can be clearly seen together with their smoke plumes and the resulting haze.
Hopefully, this tool which is now operational and available as open data, will greatly reduce the spread of forest fires and the haze pollution which have already caused a lot of damage in the environment, economy, and the health of millions of residents in the region.