Indonesia has started to induce artificial rains in order to prevent the triggering vast forest fires that release in the dry season clouds of toxic smoke, a threat that could be added to that of the coronavirus.
The fires of last year have been the worst since 2015 due to the drought and some 1.6 million hectares have burned in the archipelago of South-East Asia, mostly on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
“We take these measures before the fires start “, stressed Tri Handoko Seto of the government office of technology BPPT.
The authorities have started these past two weeks to use a technology of seeding clouds to provoke rainfall in Riau province, before spreading elsewhere on the island of Sumatra and Borneo. The operation could last throughout the dry season, which extends until the month of September approximately.
The effort will be directed in priority to the peat bogs, and areas normally wet become very flammable when they are dry, sometimes artificially-to make way for crops.
Last year, the fires on Sumatra and Borneo have produced thick clouds of toxic smoke which have forced many schools to close and have spread to neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Singapore.
The authorities had deployed tens of thousands of firefighters and security forces to extinguish the fires which are sometimes ignited intentionally to clean up of new areas for oil palm plantations.
“According to our forecasts, the dry season this year was not to be as bad as last year, ( … ), but you never know,” noted Tri Handoko Seto.
“If things get worse, and that we have a cloud of smoke like last year, we could use other techniques. Hopefully we don’t come here “.
The NGO Greenpeace has warned that the crisis of the sars coronavirus along with a new cloud of toxic smoke poses serious risks to the population.
“This year, we are facing a global health crisis and a virus that affects the lungs of the people “, stressed a spokesman of the NGO.
“Businesses and governments must have a great sense of responsibility and take measures to prevent the fumes of deadly forest fires that may strengthen the threat to the health of millions of people in the region “.