Recent data from NASA satellites show countless fires burning on the island of Sumatra, in western Indonesia. Apparently, the fires were purposely lit by members of the local communities, who intended to clear the land and prepare it for agriculture.
Their decision to use fire as a means to prepare the soil for new crops has to do with the fact that this practice is both easy and costless.
In spite of the fact that, in the past, high officials issued bans to prevent indigenous people from continuing to set palm oil and rubber plantations on fire so as to get rid of the older trees, it is quite difficult to break a habit that has been going around for generations.
As well as this, rumor has it that the local government is not at all eager to see that this new laws are properly enforced.
Official reports inform us that the fires were responsible for pushing the air pollution index well above 100, which means that health warnings had to be issued for the people living in Kuala Lumpur and in other Malaysian regions.
For the time being, shifting winds caused the smoke to turn towards Thailand and thus dissipate to some extent, which means that local air quality can be considered to no longer pose any serious threats.
Mongabay explains that this is not the first time that hazes engulf this part of the world, as similar fires occurred between 1982-1983 and 1997-1998.
The weather phenomenon known as El Niño is considered to have caused most of the fire-related air pollution in the region during said periods of time, as millions of hectares burned down as a result of extremely high temperatures and considerably dry air.
Although the situation has somewhat improved, it seems that the people living there will have to deal with air pollution caused by haze for several months to come.