Environment: World suffers the worst year ever for forest fires
Wednesday 17 December 1997
"1997 will be remembered as the year the world caught fire," said Jean- Paul Jeanrenaud, head of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International's forest programme.
In Indonesia and Brazil alone, more than 5 million hectares of species- rich woodland habitat have been consumed by fire - an area about as large as Switzerland, says a report from the organisation. But there have been serious fires on every continent apart from Antarctica, with the latest striking the east coast of Australia at the beginning of this month.
Many of these fires are started deliberately, and often illegally, to clear land for agriculture and plantations. In some countries they have become massive and uncontrollable because of drought attributed to this year's El Nino, a global weather event which occurs every few years and this time appears extreme.
The fires have caused air pollution levels much higher and more dangerous than those for which traffic, industry and power stations are responsible. They are also adding significantly to the emissions of global-warming carbon dioxide gas which come from burning fossil fuels.
"We are creating a vicious cycle of destruction, where increased fires are both a result of changes in weather and a contributory factor to these changes," said Mr Jeanrenaud.
WWF says the fires in Indonesia may have set light to thick peat deposits which could smoulder underground for years and start new surface fires during the next dry season.
Hundreds of infant orang-utan in Indonesia have been found in the hands of villagers, available for the pet trade. It is believed their mothers fled from the burning forests with their babies and were then killed by local people. Meanwhile, the government has reinstated 45 or the 146 timber exploitation permits it revoked in the wake of the catastrophic forest fires this year.
The WWF report says that in the Amazon jungles of Brazil says there has been a 50 per cent increase in the number of fires in this year's burning season, which begins in August, compared with that of 1996.
The Brazilian government says the great bulk of these fires are taking place on cleared land or in secondary forest which had already been burnt. But WWF does not accept that the big increase is not destroying more virgin forest areas.
Other countries cited in the report as having had severe forest fires are Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
How China's richest man Li Hejun lost $15bn in an hour - and made a fortune
Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Snoop Dogg on why he doesn't regret displaying misogyny towards women
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...