Fires hotspots likely got its peak this month on Tuesday (27 August) seeing the 5th largest number of hotspots (758) recorded since 1 June this year, as 26% of that found inside the Tesso Nilo complex. In June this year, EoF published data on the Indonesia’s worst fire season in recent years with serious smoke choking the region and neighboring Singapore and southern Malaysia and published some field photos. After two months, many fires are happening in Riau again where schools closed and some flights canceled due to thick haze. Dust of fires also falls to the ground in Pekanbaru and some areas in the province.

NASA’s Firms Modis fire locations data recorded 4,134 hotspots in Sumatra between 1 and 27 August. 67% were recorded in Riau province (2,771 hotspots).

The Indonesian NGO network Eyes on the Forest compared NASA’s August fire hotspot data of Riau with the maps of Riau’s 2012 land covers, pulpwood concessions and protected areas published on EoF’s Google Earth interactive map as well as with Landsat images taken in August 2013.

The comparison only identifies the probable location of fires. Only burn scars visible on future satellite images may show where the fires actually burned and field investigations may reveal who actually started the fires.

Worst hit area is the Tesso Nilo forest complex with serious encroachment issues for oil palm plantation development. The complex, consisting of Tesso Nilo National Park and two selective logging concessions PT. Hutani Sola Lestari and PT. Siak Raya Timber concessions, had almost 20% (540) of Riau’s hotspots.

  • 775 (28%) hotspots showed inside pulpwood concessions, 362 in Asia Pulp & PAper related  concessions (Sinar Mas Group) and 324 in APRIL (Royal Golden Eagle). Some hotspots showed deep inside the concessions with Landsat images showing exposed soil, where either acacia or natural forest had been logged. 343 (12%) hotspots showed in areas with pulpwood plantation cover in 2012, but August 2013 satellite images suggest that some of the plantation had been harvested prior to fire.
  • 647 (23%) hotspots showed in what was natural forest in 2012, suggesting recent deforestation activities for whose “clean-up” these fires may have been started.
  • 352 (13%) hotspots showed in what 2012 satellite images indicate are well-managed large scale oil palm plantation areas. These areas likely overlap at least in part with concession boundaries of large oil palm companies available on Government web sites. EoF has not re-published these data because it has not yet verified them.
  • 687 (25%) hotspots showed in areas with fully exposed soil in 2012, 390 (14%) in cleared areas that had some vegetation in 2012 and 341 (12%) in areas with no natural forest consisting of various land covers which were not pulpwood or oil palm plantations in 2012.
  • 1,809 (65%) showed in peatlands, suggesting huge carbon emissions.

 See the EoF map