Record-breaking air pollution caused by peatland fires in Sumatra has Malaysians and Singaporeans locked indoors -- and Indonesia today plans to try an unconventional approach to tackling the flames.
The Indonesians will dump chemicals from aircraft high above smoldering palm plantations in hopes of changing the weather. The goal is to seed clouds and force them to rain their moisture out over the stubborn conflagrations, which were triggered by slash-and-burn forest-clearing by the palm oil industry.
Two Casa 212 aircraft will be flown to the province's capital, Pekanbaru, on Friday morning and a C-130 Hercules Air Force aircraft will also be readied for the effort.
Personnel, equipment and seed material to induce rain over clouds have already been sent to Pekanbaru on Thursday night, the agency in charge added.
Cloud seeding is an unusual approach to firefighting. But, then, this is no ordinary fire. From Agence France-Presse:
About 100 firefighters tackling the blazes were finding them difficult to extinguish as they were smouldering underground in carbon-rich peatland, mostly in oil palm plantations, he said.
“It is extremely difficult to extinguish the fires that are burning under the surface of the peatland,” [Indonesian Forestry Ministry official Raffles Panjaitan] said.