Forest fires raging in Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo in this image, taken on the 8th of August, send thick plumes of smoke arching north-northeast offshore. These fires threaten to intensify a “brown haze” across southern Asia.
Smoke from the fires blew over major towns on Borneo island, causing air quality to plunge to its worst level this year in parts of Malaysia’s eastern Sarawak state on Borneo.
In this region, more than 2,471 acres (1,000 hectares) of wildfires – roughly the size of 1,500 soccer fields – are ablaze in several forests, according to the AP. Many fires can also be seen in Indonesia’s province of West Kalimantan, both near and far from the Sarawak border.
The fires are believed to be caused by plantation operators who set brush fires to clear land during the dry season. State authorities have said they are considering tighter restrictions to ban setting fires on peat soil areas, which are harder to extinguish.
The UN has identified this “brown haze”, a near-permanent cloud across southern Asia, as one of the world’s worst environmental hazards. The haze is caused by the smoke from forest fires and agricultural burning, as well as industrial emissions and inefficient wood and dung burning stoves. It can reduce the solar energy reaching the Earth’s surface by up to 15 per cent, reports the New Scientist, altering the Asian monsoon, reducing harvests and killing as many as a million people a year from respiratory diseases.