Science - November 12, 2015

Meanwhile in… Indonesia

In the news: Forest fires have been raging for months in Indonesia. The situation is hard to get under control due to extreme drought. Major damage to ecosystems and public health can no longer be prevented by the rain that is falling now.

Photo: CIFOR

Commentary by Windy Mulia Liem, Master’s student Nutrition and Health.

‘There are forest fires in my country every year during the dry summer. They happen because the farmers set forested areas alight to create more arable land. This year the summer is extremely dry. The forest fires have free reign and the authorities cannot control them. Even the peatlands are catching fire. This causes a lot of smoke.

Luckily it rained last week, but the damage is enormous. Half a million Indonesians have respiratory problems and two million hectares of forest burned down on Borneo, Sumatra, and the Papua Islands. This is the habitat of the orangutan and other threatened species. Children couldn’t go to school for months because of the smoke, and now have some catching up to do.

I have never experienced forest fires up close myself. When I saw the heart-breaking images on television, I had to try to help the victims of this disaster. Especially the children, because they are the most vulnerable group. Without good medical help smoke inhalation can lead to stunted growth and other health problems. Last week I set up a fundraising appeal for the victims together with several other students. The lunch concert with which we raised money took place in Forum. I really appreciate how much everybody sympathises with the victims. During the concert there were people of different nationalities who all wanted to do something to help. Some of them hadn’t even heard of the disaster before. I hope that in situations like this in the future people will not just ask themselves why but also how. How would it feel to be a victim of this myself, and how can we help these people?’