Forest fires are a major cause of environmental destruction across Southeast Asia, resulting in loss of ecosystems and productive resources and creating smoke pollution. The fires that engulfed much of Sumatra and Kalimantan in 1997 had serious effects on neighbouring countries and attracted world-wide attention. Fires whose impact are mostly local are also a longstanding problem, but have attracted much less attention and little remedial action. A new study from Vietnam investigates the causes of fires that destroyed large areas of the country’s melaleuca forest in 2002. It blames a combination of bad forest and agricultural management and inadequate resources for fire prevention. The study recommends that both issues be addressed to assure the long-term protection of the forest. It also advise that more be done to improve the livelihoods of local people to give them an incentive to avoid exploiting the forest in a way that leaves it vulnerable to fire damage.
Melaleuca Forest Fire in 2002 in the Mekong River Delta, Vietnam