Study estimates 100,000 deaths from Indonesia haze
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian forest fires that choked a swath of Southeast Asia with a smoky haze for weeks last year may have caused more than 100,000 deaths, according to new research that will add to pressure on Indonesia's government to tackle the annual crisis.
The study by scientists from Harvard University and Columbia University to be published in the journal Environmental Research Letters is being welcomed by other researchers and Indonesia's medical profession as an advance in quantifying the suspected serious public health effects of the fires, which are set to clear land for agriculture and forestry. The number of deaths is an estimate derived from a complex analysis that has not yet been validated by analysis of official data on mortality.
The research has implications for land-use practices and Indonesia's vast pulp and paper industry. The researchers showed that peatlands within timber concessions, and peatlands overall, were a much bigger proportion of the fires observed by satellite than in 2006, which was another particularly bad year for haze. The researchers surmise that draining of the peatlands to prepare them for pulpwood plantations and other uses made them more vulnerable to fires.