Borneo Is Burning


Sir, - I am living on the island of Borneo, which is reputed to be the third largest on earth. For well over two months now an eerie and poisonous pall of gloom has canopied the tropical skies of southeast Asia as environmental vandalism on a massive scale is being perpetrated in Indonesia. The super-rich timber barons are burning down the rain-forest to replace it with the monoculture of palm oil trees. Schools have been told to close, huge inconvenience is caused to travellers and people have been advised to stay indoors. Recently, visibility was down to one metre in Kuching, Sarawak.

The Indonesian government selfishly ignored the seriousness of the situation until the wind changed direction temporarily and blew the noxious fumes back towards them. The situation is now out of control as the coal seams near the surface are burning as well. So far 800,000 hectares have been wiped out. The unprecedented dry spell is expected to last for at least another three months due to the El Nino influence.

The Indonesian authorities originally blamed the native swithen farmers of Kalimautan, but this was a cover-up for the licensed logging and plantation companies who deliberately set these fires every year. Despite the pious platitudes being mouthed it is extremely unlikely that these legalised vandals will be brought to book. In the meantime Borneo is burning while President Suharto fiddles. - Yours, etc., Seamas O. Muirthile,

P.O. Box 256,

Maura Post Office,