World Bank on Wednesday said in a report that forest fires that ravaged parts of Indonesia in 2019 cost the country 5.2 billion dollars.
The World Bank said that the total damage and economic losses as a result of the worst forest fires since 2015 were equal to about 0.5 per cent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product.
It said that the economic loss could cut growth in 2019 and 2020 by 0.09 and 0.05 per cent.
The report said that more than 620,000 hectares of forest, an area nine times the size of the capital Jakarta, burned between January and September in eight provinces, mainly on Sumatra and Borneo islands.
It added that more than 900,000 people had reported respiratory health diseases, 12 national airports had halted operations, and hundreds of schools in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore had to temporarily closed.
The World Bank said “Fires are considered the cheapest option among all methods to prepare lands for cultivation, or to claim lands in areas with disputes, where land ownership is uncertain and where enforcement is weak.’’
The bank said about 44 per cent of the areas burned in 2019 was located in peatlands, where fires are harder to suppress once started and release thick haze and carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
The carbon emissions from 2019 blazes in Indonesia are estimated to be almost double the emissions from the fires in the Brazilian Amazon.
Forest fires are an annual hazard in Indonesia, and the resulting haze often affects neighbouring Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, driving air pollution to hazardous levels.